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Lawmakers Not Models Of Healthy Living

From a seemingly surprised Politico:

Lawmakers are not good models of healthy living

By: Katherine Tallmadge
July 27, 2009

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone in Congress quote the Hippo­cratic oath during this year’s debate on health care reform — “First, do no harm” — I could retire early. What I have not heard quoted by anyone is an admonition almost as well-known and much more appropriate to the current debate: “Physician, heal thyself.”

As a nutrition and diet consultant in Washington who has worked with members of Congress and congressional staff over the past two decades, I have more than a passing knowledge of the people now making decisions that will affect the health of millions of Americans. And I can tell you they are about the last people in the world who can speak about what it takes to be in good health.

Congress’s lifestyle precludes balanced eating or regular physical activity. Lawmakers — and their staffs — work long, 10-to-14-hour days. They rarely see daylight. Walking to work a few blocks or eating a balanced breakfast is thought to be a waste of time. There are parking spaces to fill and a breakfast meeting with cheese Danishes and who needs exercise when you can have all the coffee you need to stay alert? Lunch breaks are frowned upon, and needing a good night’s sleep is a sign of weakness. Healthful eating and exercise smack of elitism (you didn’t mention arugula, did you?), and relaxation and time for family are for sissies. “It’s a very intense life. Long hours are expected, and your job is everything. You’ll make the sacrifices, including health, exercise, family,” says one of my clients, who worked as a staffer in the offices of one of the most prominent health care proponents (and yo-yo dieters) in Congress before finally deciding she had to quit. She described working on Capitol Hill as “a toxic combination of stress, long hours and unhealthy food.”

Another client broke up with her senator boyfriend because she couldn’t take the unhealthful lifestyle she was inevitably being dragged into. It was beginning to affect her health and weight and at the same time was negatively affecting their relationship.

“It was too painful to be a part of such an unhealthy life,” she explained. “His work was everything. He wasn’t finished at the office until late every night. By then he was ravenous, as he never fed himself proper meals during the day and would inhale huge steak dinners. He was becoming more and more overweight and was being warned by his doctor to shape up. I tried to get him to exercise with me, go walking, or just come home to have healthy meals. But nothing worked. He seemed to be stuck in this unhealthy lifestyle and couldn’t give it up.”

Junk food is pervasive on Capitol Hill. It’s found in abundance — from the candies, cookies and snacks given by lobbyists on everyone’s desks, to the vending machines in office hallways, to the well-stocked candy desk that has been on the Senate floor for 40 years. Who needs balanced meals? Members and staffers regularly grab free food at the continual receptions down the hall or across the street. They live on canapés, cheese and crackers, prime rib, chocolate mousse. Their waistlines expand, but they just buy new clothes, and besides, nobody notices or mentions the result. We’re doing important work here!

The few members inclined to be healthy have access to a House or Senate gym with showers and cut-up fresh fruit. If they need to stay late at work, a cafeteria with a whole crew must, by law, stay to feed them (subsidized by taxpayers). If they travel beyond this tiny and exclusive universe, they are driven, flown and “handled.” And if, heaven forbid, members fall ill, they have access to the best medical care and health insurance in the country. There are even medical offices in the Capitol where members and staffers have access to doctors or nurses as needed at no cost to them. Of course, they work hard and deserve this kind of care. But who doesn’t?

With the limos and the staff and the constant schedule of business breakfasts, lunches and dinners, members of Congress don’t really live like other people. Except in a sense, they do. Their bad habits are an exaggerated version of the things their constituents do, making them overweight and out of shape and ultimately a huge burden to all of us who have to spend money on health care.

Let’s hope that lawmakers can somehow get past their own disregard of good health and make the right choices for the rest of us. We need a system that keeps people healthy, one that actually prevents the most serious and costly chronic diseases, most of which are caused by poor eating choices, a sedentary lifestyle and/or excess body fat. As Congress works hard to reform health care, there is a temptation to simply upgrade the current very expensive system instead of developing an actual health promotion system.

Sound too simple? Well, it isn’t! In my personalized nutrition practice, by teaching people healthful habits of eating and physical activity, I see “miracles” every day. My clients — and others who are lucky enough to work with health care professionals such as me — get taken off diabetes drugs, blood pressure drugs, cholesterol drugs, arthritis pain medications and antidepressants. Studies show that people who improve their eating and activity habits and achieve their ideal body weight report an improved quality of life, level of energy, mobility, general mood and self-confidence. They experience improvements in their physical health and interactions with others.

We either ignore or simply pay lip service to the importance of prevention, perhaps because our “health care system” has no incentives for disease prevention. Who profits when people are healthier? Certainly, Big Pharma, insurance companies, hospitals and junk food manufacturers would lose their obesity cash flow bonanza of the past decades.

Some proposals that will start making a difference are no-brainers and won’t cost taxpayers: labeling calorie content on restaurant menus, getting vending machines with sodas and junk foods out of schools and getting rid of junk food ads and violent video games and television for underage children. We should teach respect for personal health in schools — nutrition, physical activity, cooking and stress management — for students and their parents. After-school physical activity and healthful snack programs should be available for children who live in poor homes or unsafe neighborhoods. Nutrition and weight loss counseling by qualified dietetics professionals should be reimbursed by Medicare, Medicaid and insurance companies.

So why aren’t we doing any of this? One reason may be that the people who make the laws don’t understand the need to take care of oneself and adopt prevention. And they don’t understand it, because very few of them actually practice it.

There are exceptions, of course. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) starts every morning running or cross-training in the House gym. And his personal experience has shaped the kind of remedies he sees as necessary. Kind proposes giving tax credits for going to gyms and supports legislation that would require schools to inform parents of their children’s participation in physical education programs. “It’s very easy to lose touch with what most people have to do — even if you’re conscientious,” says Kind.

My plan for health care reform, then, is to start at the beginning, with the people debating, writing and ultimately enacting health care legislation. President Obama is a pretty good role model — assuming he cuts back on those hamburgers he seems to like so much and finally quits smoking. Now it’s time for Congress to follow his lead. Members of Congress and political leaders need to understand what leads to good health — and practice it. Then they’ll be in a position to tell the rest of the country what to do.

Katherine Tallmadge, president of Personalized Nutrition, is a counselor, author (“Diet Simple,” 2004) and speaker and has designed nutrition, wellness and weight loss programs for individuals, government and corporations for more than 20 years.

Congress can’t even run a cafeteria.

And yet we are somehow supposed to believe they would be able to legislate how we should eat?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, July 31st, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

18 Responses to “Lawmakers Not Models Of Healthy Living”

  1. proreason says:

    It was probably just an oversight that President Bush is not mentioned.

    If I recall correctly, his non-smoking, non-drinking, workout-conscious lifestyle was reported as proof of his lack of attention to the nations’ business and as an indication of how stubborn he was about all things.

    And the voracious reading he engaged in, which for most people would be viewed as an indication of an inquiring mind, was portrayed instead as the hobby of a man uninterested in doing his job (when it was reported at all).

  2. Yarddog1 says:

    Caligula comes to mind for some reason. Sodom and Gomorrah perhaps? Long hours of “work” – my big ole’ butt!

  3. MinnesotaRush says:

    “Lawmakers are not good models of healthy living” … and she didn’t even get to Bawney Fwank!

  4. GetBackJack says:

    Michael Geer at American Thinker.com posted this, and it’s just too good not to copy and paste it here …

    n the heels of Arizona’s state officials announcing they’re proposing to sell their citizen’s “public assets and capital improvements” to raise cash in order to keep the sate funded coupled with Obamacare’s mind blowing price tag and the constant cries from Washington for more money …

    …. I recognize the symptoms as crack addicts. These elected ‘tards are Spending Addicts and just as addicted as meth addicts. Your money and my money are their crank and they will kill to get their hands on more crank. They will lie, cheat steal to get more crank. The behavioral signals of addicts is all too well known … high risk sexual behavior. violent aggression to get what they want. Threats, chronic intellectual impairment, tweaking, paranoia, depression followed by intense elation. Meth is a powerfully addicting drug because of it’s intense stimulation, like voting yourself a hundred billion dollars of other people’s money to spend as you want without restraint or consequence! Crank, like money releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. A cocaine high lasts about 15-20 minutes, while a meth high lasts 2-14 hours. A money high lasts through the Wagyu dinner and the next House session of looting the tax slave. On the street it is known as crank, speed, crystal or ice. In Congress it’s known as Appropriations. It can be a whitish or pale yellow crystal-like powder that can be chewed, ingested, injected, snorted or smoked. Or, a 1000 page Law no one has read but every member of Congress desperately seeks to lie with, as a harlot.

    Spending other people’s money is as ridiculously addictive as kitchen sink Meth. It is personality altering and can cause violent, bizarre behavior. Other effects on the central nervous system include irritability, insomnia, confusion and paranoia, witness Barney Frank, Nancy Peolis her odd tics, Christopher Dood and Ted Kennedy, let alone any of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Who desperately need The Cure. Meth, like Appropriations, robs the body of calcium and appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time meth appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease and type-two schizophrenia. Seriously, watch members of the House and witness their almost alien-like body signals and facial expressions as if there’s interference in whatever frequency is channeling to them. Meth and Appropriations cause increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Do I need to name names here? Other effects of meth include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat and extreme anorexia. Its use can result in cardiovascular collapse and death. Ditto Appropriations.

    Our elected officials are addicts of the worst sort and need The Rehab in the worst way.

    And I do mean, worst way.

    Have compassion on our elected ‘tards and get them the medical and psychological deprogramming help they’re crying out for, because They Can’t Stop.

    • proreason says:

      Little question that our public officials are addicts, criminals, liars, narcissists and every other kind of personality disorder in much higher %’s than the general public.

      I’m highly suspicious of the best of them. The siren song of wealth and power is impossible to resist.

      But didn’t some very wise people come up with the firewall to prevent power-mad idealogues from taking over our country. It was named something like the Constitution.

      But that documant, dispite surviving virtually unchanged for 230 year, is under attack daily becauase it is all-of-a sudden out-moded and flawed.

      Elite judges who have spent their lives in academia are so much better able to rule us if they don’t pay any attention to stifling and archaic cocepts like “thelaw”, “the constitution” and legal precident.

  5. beautyofreason says:

    This hypocrisy reminds me of my aunt. She’s morbidly obese with several ongoing health issues. She is strongly in favor of socialized medicine. The other day I mentioned that NY mayor Bloomberg was considering taxing soda and other junk foods – and that Democrats in Congress were considering such taxes as a way to raise money should nationalized health care pass.

    Her response (holding a glass of Coke)? “Well, soda is not a very healthy food.” She eats crap but has no problem with big government taxing her dietary choices, as long as they sound benevolent. She doesn’t see the other side – the rationing, the costs, the regulations etching away at personal liberty.

  6. NotStuckOnStupid says:

    Oh God, Steve. You are priceless!!!

  7. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    At what point in their lives do obese people not care anymore and just let themselves go? And instead of taking a good hard look in the mirror and take corrective action, they simply continue on towards the path of self-destruction. With food stamps fruits, vegetables, and even some cuts of beef are a lot cheaper than beer, junk food, or a pack of smokes. But evidently some people are too far gone to care anymore. And having unhealthy lawmakers setting a bad example doesn’t help matters either.

    • njyankee says:

      “At what point in their lives do obese people not care anymore and just let themselves go?”

      Well, for me it’ll be when socialized medicine takes over in this country. As soon as that happens I will balloon to 500lbs in order to point out the flaws of the socialized medicine system. It’ll pretty much mirror my plan for living to be 250 years old in order to live long enough to point out the flaws of the SS system.

  8. czar says:

    To Proreason – you are right on the money. I think I recognize Jerry Nadler, above, who when he flies commercial must, have to purchase at least two adjoining seats in first class.

    • Confucius says:

      Yes, that is Jerry Nadler.

      In 2002, Nadler had duodenal surgery to lose weight. He was a member of Congress at the time.

      Interestingly, that kind of surgery was typically not covered by insurance in 2002. So, who paid for his?

    • catie says:

      Confucius, it would appear the surgery failed. Perhaps Mr. Fat Fatty should go on the Biggest Loser. I believe they had a contestant last year who also had some type of weight loss surgery and it failed but he lost weight there. It probably be more productive than his time spent in Congress. He’s such a pig anyway though, yet if he has a heart attack because he’s such a fat fatty he’ll be just fine due to the excellent health coverage he receives.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      He looks as if he could snarf down half a cow on the hoof.

  9. Liberals Demise says:

    Other things congress couldn’t run:
    Post Office
    Social Security
    Medicare and Medicaid
    Fannie and Freddie
    Their own business

  10. Gladius et Scutum says:

    Since the Bronze Professor doesn’t seem to be around right now, I’m going to have to try to do this myself.

    The article has a purpose not readily apparent to the careful reader (i.e., S&L readers). It is important to note that these are a small minority.

    In headline and throughout, the terms “Law” and “Health” are inextricably linked, as are “legislature” and “lifestyle”. Since most readers will take away a general impression, rather than a reasoned opinion, I would judge the article to be first class propaganda.

    I must recommend Jacques Ellul’s “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes” to everyone who victimized by such efforts (everyone).

  11. VMAN says:

    All right children do as I say not as I do.

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