A President’s Day Debate

Tip of the hat, wag of the finger.

President William Howard Taft has the dubious honor of being America’s heaviest leader, weighing in at 314 pounds during his tenure in the White House. Concerned about how his weight would affect his health, and therefore his ability to serve, in December 1905, the soon-to-be president wrote to English physician and diet expert Nathaniel E. Yorke-Davies for advice.

During Taft’s time, weight was not connected to poor health outcomes the same way that it is now. Poor sleep and heartburn were just being linked to obesity and apparently Taft’s sleep disruption and GI concerns were enough to hire a doctor to help him slim down as ‘no gentleman should ever weigh more than 300 pounds.’ Seriously. He said that.

What resulted from the formation of this new relationship between President and doctor, patient and nutritionist, was basically an early version of food journaling. Because Taft’s doctor did not reside in D.C., he asked Taft to record everything he ate, how much he exercised, and the frequency of his bowel movements. In comparing this journal to recommendations made today to combat obesity, what we find are shockingly similar diet suggestions: gluten-free, lean meats, portion control. Taft did lose weight, thanks to self-monitoring, but it wasn’t without challenges. At one point he gained some of the weight back to which he said, “Will power can only last so long, even if you’re the president of the United States.” Well, goes to show what HE knew what we do now about willpower.

In order to avoid the yo-yo-ing that we saw Taft go through and that so many of us experience as we begin to change our relationship with sugar and flour, there are some helpful beginner’s tips that might ease some of the grief of change. Mix it up – stick within your constraints but have some FUN with your meal plan. Don’t be so strict that you spend equal time beating yourself up over slips or mistakes in planning ahead – we want you to be as close to perfect as possible but no one is THAT good. Eat your Wheaties!!! Well, not REALLY, but eating breakfast every morning is proven to increase weight loss and kick start that sluggish metabolism. Get your greens on and don’t be afraid of fruit (within limits). Talk it out! Nothing provides support like an honorable friend, partner or mental health individual or group when you are feeling like the pits. Trust us, we know! Finally, get moving! Exercise not only helps burn those pesky calories but improves our overall mood by revving up the serotonin and dopamine in our brains.

Rock on Buddies and take it from Taft – you can DO this!