On Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump spoke to TV medical personality Dr. Mehmet Oz to discuss longstanding questions regarding his health. While the taped segment won’t air for another day, early reports have already offered a small window into Trump’s (literal) inner workings.
Some of the alleged details are fairly mundane—an appendix removal at age 11, uneventful colonoscopy and prostate exam results, and so on—but nestled within the preview rumors is one factlet that stands out. Donald Trump is quite possibly, technically obese.
According to NBC’s Katy Tur, who spoke to a source at the taping, Trump weighs 267 pounds. As multiple people have pointed out on Twitter, since he’s 6’3″, that would place his Body Mass Index over the National Institute of Health’s threshold for obesity.
Other sources at the taping claim that Trump said he weighed 236 pounds. This would place him less than a half-a-percentage point under the NIH’s obesity threshold.
No one should be shamed for their weight—high, low, and everything in between. Trump’s weight does not make him a good, nor a bad person. But whether over, or just under, the technical definition of obesity, it does, however, highlight some important underlying factors at play in this election—namely, Trump’s claims of perfect health, and his insinuations about Hillary Clinton’s supposed ailments.
Prior to Wednesday’s taping, the Trump campaign had released a single statement on his health; a one page memo written by Trump’s personal physician, Dr. Jacob Bornstein, in five minutes. In it, Dr. Bornstein states that “if elected, Donald Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Contrast this with the reports that Donald Trump told Dr. Oz that his gesticulations while speaking on the campaign trail count as a workout.
Trump also has a penchant for fast food which he justified to Oz by saying, “at least you know what’s in it.”
Trump may well be in decent shape, able to enjoy burgers and just gesture the calories away. Everyone’s bodies work differently. But if he is, in fact, technically obese, his doctor’s unequivocal declaration is, well, totally bogus.
Obesity, the Mayo clinic notes, can lead to a measurably increased likelihood of ailments, including:
- High triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Cancer, including cancer of the uterus, cervix, endometrium, ovaries, breast, colon, rectum, esophagus, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney and prostate
- Breathing disorders, including sleep apnea, a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts
- Erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition in which fat builds up in the liver and can cause inflammation or scarring
In other words, it’s a big deal!
But there are also political implications in all of this. Throughout the summer, Trump and his surrogates have mocked Hillary Clinton for imaginary bouts of fatigue, phantom brain injuries, and, most recently, her pneumonia. (While Trump himself offered a fairly restrained response to her latest diagnosis, his allies went to town.) A candidate’s supposed measure of physical fitness has become, by Trump’s own doing, a legitimate (at least in the eyes of his supporters) cudgel with which to whack at an political opponent.
By focusing his attacks on Clinton’s health, while generally deflecting any hint of criticism of his own, Trump enjoys the advantages of being a man for whom questions of fitness have been largely treated as a non-issue, if at all. Clinton, meanwhile, has been subjected to scrutiny about her appearance, health, and fitness to serve in office that ultimately—whether implicitly or explicitly—carries deeply gendered implications.
And, as Politico’s Glenn Thrush pointed out, there’s no way that the statement from Trump’s doctor could ever correspond with Trump’s own admission of being overweight—whatever weight that turns out to be.
So where does that leave Donald Trump? Comfortable in his own skin, I hope. Healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. But attacking a political rival on the basis of their supposed physical capabilities, while ignoring potential minefields in one’s own, is hypocrisy, and should be called out as such
When it comes to our body politic, anything less would just be unhealthy.