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Deja Vu

May 13, 2013

Fit for the Job


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2013: New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whose weight has long been a punchline for comedians (and rivals) confirmed last week he’d undergone gastric bypass surgery in an attempt to lose weight. Christie’s announcement sparked rumors that a 2016 presidential run is on the horizon. CNN reports:

While the surgery and anticipated weight loss should negate the nagging question of whether a person as obese as Christie is healthy enough to endure the demands of the presidency, it won't help him with suspicions by those on the right over his conservative credentials.

“I think you'd have to say that losing weight was a prerequisite for him for running for the presidency. His weight was a liability,” CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger said.

Christie's weight has not been an issue as he runs this year for re-election to a second term: A Quinnipiac University poll of New Jersey voters conducted in March indicated that 68% of Garden State voters were comfortable with an overweight candidate, with just over one in five holding reservations.

1905: The heaviest president in American history, the appetite of William Howard Taft was the stuff of legend—the press reported at various points that he had a ninety-pound Christmas mince pie, caused the overflow of a bathtub in Atlantic City, and ordered a twenty-six pound opossum for his Thanksgiving table. Enter Dr. Nathaniel Edward York-Davies, a British nutrition specialist hired to get Taft into shape, starting with a complete overhaul of his diet:

There is no doubt that you can carry a large weight, but still your present weight is very excessive and it is very important that you should now go through a proper course of dieting and reduce to the extent of sixty or eighty pounds or more. I am quite sure if you keep to my rules that the desired end will be attained, and that you will be exceedingly gratified to find yourself down to a reasonable weight in half a year’s time.

You will quite understand from the dietary given that sugar is entirely debarred. Also that fats, milk, cheese, cream, eggs, etc. are cut off for the time being. Also that bread and farinaceous foods are all cut off. In place of bread or toast you must use Gluten-free biscuits. I do not know of any place in America where you can get suitable biscuits but possibly you may know of a place.

The above line of diet I have no doubt will be satisfactory for you to keep to for some time. I should you to write me weekly for the first few weeks so that I may get some reports to see how you are getting on.
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The brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over we realize this: that the human has been roughly handled, but that it has advanced.
Victor Hugo, 1862
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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