President Trump

Reporting on the President and Obesity

The president’s doctor, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, released a memo yesterday with more details on the president’s health. His cholesterol has come down a bit, but his weight is up. At 243 pounds and an official height of 6’3″, that puts his BMI at 30.4 – in the range of mild obesity.

The report says nothing about a diagnosis of obesity. Simply that he’s in “very good health overall.”

Spotty Reporting

It’s no surprise that the reporting on these facts is spotty. This might have been a teachable moment – about health and weight, about what obesity is, and about pursuing good health at any size.

Instead, most of the reporting was all about slapping a label on the president: he’s obese. To their credit, the New York Times headline writer dodged that error. In fact, they did something unusual for the paper. They used people-first language for their headline, writing about obesity rather than “being obese.” Unfortunately, the Times reporters didn’t stick with it. The article itself indulges in the obese label.

USA Today stayed with that facts in their headline. New York Magazine took the sensational route, suggesting a plot to hide an obesity diagnosis.

Uninformed Armchair Diagnoses

Overall, the reporting mostly skimmed over the facts of obesity. Some of it hinted at the truth that BMI alone doesn’t give you a diagnosis. Especially in the range of mild obesity. BMI is just a marker for a health risk. It’s useful for population estimates of obesity. But it’s not the final word on a clinical diagnosis for an individual.

So what we have is a bunch of armchair diagnoses for someone who might have mild obesity. In Forbes, Bruce Lee writes that the president should exercise more. He might be right. However, his doctor offers a relatively factual assessment without all the hype of prior reports:

After taking into account all the laboratory results, examinations and specialist recommendations, it is my determination that the president remains in very good health overall.

All the chatter about how he ought to do this or that is not helping. It’s just a bit of fat shaming for the president. It benefits no one.

President Trump, photograph © The Epoch Times / flickr

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February 15, 2019

3 Responses to “Reporting on the President and Obesity”

  1. February 15, 2019 at 11:15 am, Bryan said:

    Suggesting that an overweight (i.e. mildly obese) person should exercise is now fat shaming? Considering that 2 in 3 adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, I guess that makes the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for American’s a fat shaming manifesto.

    • February 15, 2019 at 1:02 pm, Ted said:

      Unsolicited advice isn’t advice. Physical activity is good for everyone. Assuming that someone doesn’t exercise because they have obesity is a classic expression of blatant bias.

  2. February 15, 2019 at 2:47 pm, Angela Golden said:

    Well, guess I will be writing and tweeting to the president and his physician again this year. Last year I got a very nice email from his physician that with a BMI less than 30 despite have an obesity related complication he did not feel the diagnosis was appropriate – hmmmm well this year it is 🙂