Yesterday, White House physician Ronny Jackson, MD, treated us to a rundown of 71-year-old President Donald Trump’s current health. “I’ve got to know him pretty well,” the doctor and navy admiral, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013 and retained by Trump, told the press corps. “And I had absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability or his, you know, his neurological function.” That’s probably shocking to folks who love to speculate that Trump has dementia. But what actually captivated the American imagination was Jackson’s reading of the President’s body vitals.
According to the doctor, Trump currently weighs 239 pounds at a height of 6’3”, making a Body Mass Index (BMI), an inaccurate but universally accepted form of weight assessment, at 29.9—0.1 units shy of being officially declared obese. As anyone who has weighed themselves after dinner knows, the President could easily surge into a BMI in the obesity range if he just had his favorite bucket of KFC and two scoops of ice cream for dinner. Since 2016, his cholesterol levels have risen from 169 to 223, and his blood pressure is 122 over 74, which is considered high.
That said, we could give him the benefit of the doubt—being a president is tough business and takes a toll on the body, even though we know that Trump incorrectly believes exercise is unhealthy because humans have “finite” amount of energy. (Even Obama, who was infamously chronicled to eat seven almonds as a bedtime snack and who is about two decades younger than Trump, became gray-haired by the end of his second term.)
People began posting side-by-side comparisons of Trump and professional athletes who are about the same weight and height, joking that Trump would be a world-class athlete if these stats were true. Never mind that muscle weighs more than fat, which is why an athlete is physically smaller than Trump, even with similar weight and height. This is already being dubbed the #GirtherMovement, a moniker alluding to Trump’s involvement in the Birther Movement.
The reaction to Trump’s weight proves that both sides of the aisle have a fat shaming problem. Once, a friend who just moved to New York City from the Midwest told me this joke: “New Yorkers believe that people of all races, sexual orientations, and gender identities should be allowed to marry whomever they want—as long as they’re skinny.” What he meant was that everyone, even people who consider themselves progressive, is prejudiced against fat people. But conservatives, you’re not off the hook, either.
In June 2017, Chelsea Clinton accused Steve Bannon of fat shaming Sean Spicer. “Sean got fatter” was the reason Spicer was spending less time on the podium in front of the cameras, Bannon had reasoned. “The White House using fat shaming to justify increased opacity. 2017,” Clinton tweeted. In July 2017, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie was called a “fat ass” during a radio show. In December 2017, Chelsea Handler called Sarah Huckabee Sanders “a big fat biscuit.” And yes, Trump is a fat shamer, too—he mercilessly mocked former Miss Universe Alicia Machado for gaining weight. “The results of Donald Trump’s physical yesterday unleashed a torrent of fat shaming on social media by so-called progressives, leaving fat people to face the reality, yet again, that we don’t have many true allies,” Sarai Walker, author of Dietland, a novel and upcoming AMC comedic drama about thin privilege and fat shaming, explained through email.
It is true that men get away with being fat more often, though. The peer-reviewed academic studies show that women, especially, are shamed for being fat. That’s why you see tubby men with svelte wives, and not vice versa, on ‘90s laughtrack sitcoms. That’s why the “dad bod” is celebrated as a form of empowerment for modern men when it’s really another manifestation of male privilege. That’s why Donald Trump, even if he is overweight and possibly obese, was still elected president while Hillary Clinton was nicknamed “Cankles.” For women, being fat is considered a moral failing. For men, there are excuses. For Trump, there is a podium.
There is a lot to be concerned about with the Trump administration, but Trump’s weight is an irrelevant issue. Folks might shame Trump (and his administration) for what many consider to be his lying to the American public, for golfing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (his predecessors did community service), or for making misogynistic and racist comments. For being fat? That doesn’t shame Trump. That only shames your average American, liberal or conservative.