Health, Weight Loss Central to Huckabee Campaign
> 4/30/2007 1:20:43 PM

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee may be a dark horse in the already-crowded, contentious field of candidates for the next presidency of the United States. But the message which could come to personify his campaign speaks to a growing majority of Americans: in order to maintain a healthy body weight and avoid future health complications, we all need to eat smaller portions of higher quality foods each day and keep a regular exercise routine. Huckabee should know. After being diagnosed with type II diabetes in 2003 (when he weighed more than 300 lbs.), the then-governor of one of our fattest states decided to change his life for the better. Since then, he has embarked on a successful, very public weight-loss plan which has included avoiding fried foods and running in four marathons. Huckabee was a pastor before going into public service, and he now preaches the gospel of good health to whomever will listen. His efforts seem to have paid off; he's lost more than 120 lbs., published a memoir, and attracted some of the best press of his political career.

Of course, a career in government has allowed Huckabee some perks not enjoyed by the general citizenry: a team of personal chefs who fix his meals every day under strict guidelines: no butter or sugar,  heavy on fruits and vegetables, light on grains and starches. But he has made efforts, through policy initiatives, to make the task a little easier for the rest of his state's residents. His proposals have included time off and paid exercise breaks for healthy workers as well as health insurance discounts for those who undergo extensive exams. Though, as a conservative Republican, he was initially skeptical of regulating the distribution of sweet drinks and snack foods in public schools, he has now joined the chorus insisting that schools take a greater share of responsibility for determining the eating habits of our children, who Huckabee believes to be the most important factor in the American weight equation.

Some have criticized Huckabee's efforts, claiming that they propose the unacceptable intrusion of government into the private lives of Americans and that they compromise the right of every man and woman to live according to his or her own preferences. Some advocates for the overweight also claim that they discriminate needlessly against those whose body types are not in keeping with preset health standards. While good health is, of course, an admirable goal, these commentators believe that overweight individuals should take steps as they see fit rather than being "shamed" into obsessing over their appearance. Critics take particular umbrage with Huckabee's plans, recently implimented in his native Arkansas, to issue BMI (body mass index) "report cards" to the parents of every public schoolkid. Some of Huckabee's responses to what he rightly declares a monumental, nationwide crisis certainly seem overblown, but with time he may be able to find an effective combination to improve the health of the average American without infringing on his or her right to practice free choice. Just don't count on him using those initiatives to win his party's nomination for 2008.

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