The Weight of the Presidency

Public Domain

President William Howard Taft

From Nursing Clio by Deborah Levine:

In early January, President Trump had a physical exam at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a periodic rite for US presidents in the modern era. The results were made public a few days later, with fevered public interest from popular media and television commentators. Was the President, with a height/weight ratio that put his BMI just a shade below the cutoff for obesity, having his doctor lie about his weight to avoid a diagnosis? Images of 6′3″, 239-pound men circulated social media, asking readers to make the comparison between the President’s physique and those of athletes, celebrities, and others with supposedly similar measurements.

All of this begs an important question, and it’s not “is the President’s team misrepresenting his measurements?” People, even leaders, are mostly expected to lie about their weight. It’s also not, “is the President “healthy?” All evidence indicates that BMI alone is a very poor predictor of health or longevity. Rather, the key question is why do we, as a public, invest so much meaning in this data? Why do these numbers- height, weight, BMI- and the various, changing cutoff points that those data indicate — overweight, obese, and so forth — dominate news cycles, and fascinate media? In short, why is it that some Americans, from all corners of society, thrill to the news of the President’s weight?

Read the rest of the article at Nursing Clio

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Categories: History of Medicine, United States History

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