Donald J. Plump

By most counts we have had five obese presidents, and Trump may soon join their number. Yes, his recent medical report showed him to be, at 236, overweight but not obese for a man who stands six-three. But fact-checkers quickly noticed an odd anomaly. In every earlier record, his height was listed at six-two.

It is very unusual for seventy-year-olds to grow an inch. Normally they are going in the other direction, as their spines compress. The parsimonious explanation is that six-two and 236 pounds would have pushed him over the line to obese, with a BMI of 30.2, whereas claiming to be six-three would have kept him on the more public relations-friendly side of “overweight,” with a BMI of 29.5. Since Trump’s entire act is based on altering reality to suit his purposes, this hardly seems a stretch. Of course, changing the number doesn’t change the reality or cheat death.

So, what are the odds for an obese seventy-year-old Trump serving four years as president, a famously stressful job that causes even fit, youthful, skinny occupants of the office to age prematurely? Well, judging from the lives of previously obese presidents, not good. All five were dead by age 73.

McKinley died at 58, but his demise doesn’t really count since it had nothing to do with his weight. He was assassinated. But the stories of the other four portly Potuses is not encouraging.

Taft died at 73 having previously suffered several years of ill health and shown signs of decreasing mental abilities, perhaps due to hardening of the arteries. Chester Arthur expired at 57 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Teddy Roosevelt suffered a blood clot and breathed his last at just 61, and Grover Cleveland died at 71 of heart trouble.

Admittedly all these gents were products of the Gilded Age when excessive avoirdupois was a mark of success. In the age of the Robber Barons corpulence and capitalism went hand in hand. Manual laborers were skinny losers. J. P. Morgan was an overfed Orca.

Today, the class meaning of poundage has flipped. The rich are expected to be sleek social X-rays and the lower orders chubby couch potatoes. And medical science has made significant advances, as witness Trump’s reliance on cholesterol fighting statins to keep him alive.

He’ll need them, however, since he hasn’t adopted the dining lifestyles of the rich and famous. He may travel by private jet, but he eats more like a teen-age slacker than a jetsetter or supermodel. No dainty nouvelle cuisine for him. He spends his days eating Taco Bowls and KFC fried chicken. As Billy Connolly has noted, “if you want to lose a bit of weight, don’t eat anything that comes in a bucket.”

And Trump apparently does nothing physical to combat his dietary habits. He lives in a tower but doesn’t scale it or climb stairs. His commutes are by elevator or limo. He claims to have been an athlete in his youth, though most of his alleged exploits were sexual. Today, he argues that his daily exercise amounts to waving his arms while orating. But not to worry, his parents lived long lives. But photos of the aged Trumps show thin people who apparently did not dine by the bucketful.

In short, Trump is betting his statin prescription will be powerful enough juju to keep his lifestyle choices from killing him for the next four years. He might be right, but less optimistic voters might be wise to begin considering how much fun a President Pence will be.

He is 57, is in excellent cardiovascular health, takes no medication, exercises regularly, never smoked or drank but does attend tea party events and generally has a lean and hungry look. Trump had better not look backward, someone may be gaining on him.

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