Opinion: Will Trump lose the ‘fat vote’?

SHARE Opinion: Will Trump lose the ‘fat vote’?

A naked Donald Trump at New York’s Union Square in August shows the presidential candidate to be overweight. | Mary Altaffer/AP

There has never been a better example of someone not wanting to be part of a club that would have him as a member as Donald Trump when it comes to fatness.

While Trump also is a hypocrite with respect to marital infidelity, sex tapes and NATO countries not paying their “fair share” while he dodges taxes, the man who calls others “disgustingly” fat is fat himself.


For a decade, I have written about American obesity. My book, Born With a Junk Food Deficiency, will be discussed this fall as part of a One Book, One Chicago events at the Harold Washington Library. I have learned that while it is true that Americans, including Trump, are absolutely blimping out, it is not entirely our fault.

The average American man today weighs 194 pounds and the average woman 165 pounds, which is at least 24 pounds more than either of them weighed in 1960. Everything from airline seats to coffins to operating room tables has been made bigger to accommodate our growing size.

Many are in denial. Women who think they are a size 4 or 2 (or a size 0) thanks to vanity sizing would be shocked to discover they can barely fit into a size 8 circa 1982 if they found it in a vintage clothing shop. (It is no secret why the popular “5, 7, 9” shops went out of business decades ago.)

On Parents Day at colleges and universities, most daughters outweigh their moms by 20 or more pounds. Why? Their mom grew up when the standard was, well, the size 8 circa 1981 in the vintage clothing store! Today, if your friends are 30 pounds overweight and you are 20, you might feel “thin.”

But vanity sizing — and stretchy or low-rider clothing that forgives the waist — are only partially responsible for U.S. obesity. The family meal where we learned portion control and moderation has been replaced by the solitary meal where anything goes. There’s a myriad of food “opportunities” that did not once exist like snacks at the hardware store, office supply store, car wash, bank, bookstore and of course the hotel room minibar. All-you-can-eat food bars and free refills don’t help. And, health experts say the sleep deprivation that afflicts so many Americans today also is a factor.

While eating too much and not getting enough sleep are problems under our control, sadly some American obesity is due to harmful food and environmental factors that did not exist a couple of decades ago.

Our nation’s use of antibiotics, hormones, ractopamine and other growth producers in animals has increased so much that much of our meat is banned in the European Union and Asia; and many skeptics ask why drugs used on animals would not have the same effects on humans. Denmark researchers found that babies given antibiotics within six months of birth were more likely to be overweight by the age of 7. A 2010 study in Public Health Nutrition of 3,000 girls found that girls who ate eight portions of meat a week by age three, and 12 portions of meat a week by age seven were likely to experience early puberty. (Early puberty causes girls many problems and is caused by obesity itself.) “Overuse of antibiotics could be fueling dramatic increases in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and asthma,” microbiologist Martin Blaser wrote in the journal Nature.

The environmental hazard of “endocrine disrupters” — products that mimic estrogen and derange the body’s endocrine balance — also is a recent occurrence. Endocrine disrupters are found in everyday products such as hand soap, shampoos, cosmetics, cleaning products, plastics, carpets, furniture and food containers. Endocrine disrupters also are linked to early puberty in girls when their mothers used them.

SSRI antidepressants — which as much of a quarter of the population takes — and other psychiatric drugs are strongly associated with weight gain. Artificial sweeteners have, ironically, also been linked to obesity, but they do not exonerate high fructose corn syrup, which is a culprit.

The U.S. obesity epidemic is not just about vanity or Trump snarkiness — it is about health. Obesity is linked to many cancers. It is a driving cause of chronic pain, knee and hip replacements and back surgery.

While two-thirds of our country is now overweight, it’s doubtful that indignation over Trump’s fat shaming will become a factor in this election. Overweight people typically have such low self-esteem that they do not speak up and defend fat people. Yet when considering all the factors beyond eating that contribute to their excess weight — should they have such low self-esteem?

Martha Rosenberg is the author of Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, Prometheus Books. She will participate in a discussion and sign books as part of the One Book, One Chicago program at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16 at the Harold Washington Library in the Loop.

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