Trump is not “morbidly obese”

In response to the shocking news that President Donald Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine in an attempt to ward off the coronavirus, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi what she made of that decision.

Here’s what she said:
“As far as the President is concerned, he’s our President and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say. So, I think it’s not a good idea.”

Which raises an interesting question: Is Trump actually morbidly obese? (Twitter was taken by that question Tuesday morning, with both #PresidentPlump and #TrumpMorbidlyObese” trending.)

Generally speaking, it defines obesity as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. (BMI is calculated by taking “a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters,” according to the CDC website.) Within “obese,” the CDC has three distinctions: 1) Those with a BMI between 30 and 35 2) those with a BMI between 35 and 40 and 3) those with a BMI over 40, which the CDC categorizes as having “extreme” or “severe” obesity.

While the CDC doesn’t describe that third category as “morbid obesity,” it is referred to that way by other sites including Web MD (aka the scourge of every hypochondriac’s life). How large would you need to be to qualify as having “severe” or “morbid” obesity? According to this BMI calculator, a 6 foot tall man weighing 300 pounds would have a BMI of 41 — and would be considered in a state of “morbid” obesity.

Which is not Donald Trump, at least according to the White House physician. In his February 2019 annual physical, Trump, who is 6’3″, tipped the scales at 243 pounds. That gave him a BMI of 30.4 — just over the edge of obesity but far from the technical definition of “severe” or “extreme” (or “morbid”) obesity. For Trump to be considered “morbidly obese, he would need to weigh 320 pounds — or more.

While Trump may not be as, well, large, as Pelosi suggested on Monday night, there is no question that he is overweight — due in no small part to his love of fast food and disdain for exercise.

In the wake of his 2018 annual physical — in which Dr. Ronny Jackson(!) said he needed to lose 10-15 pounds and break a sweat more often — Trump pushed back in an interview with Reuters. “I get exercise. I mean I walk, I this, I that,” Trump said. “I run over to a building next door. I get more exercise than people think.”

However, Trump has long been not only resistant to exercise but openly skeptical of its benefits.
Trump subscribes to what has been described as the “battery” theory of, um, life force. Evan Osnos, in a profile of Trump in the New Yorker a few years back, described it thusly: “Other than golf, he considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.”

Exercise, other than golf, of course, is viewed by Trump as an unnecessary drawing down of your battery life.
This, from the book “Trump Revealed” by Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, explains Trump’s theory in a bit more detail:
“After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, ‘You are going to die young because of this.'”

All of which is, uh, interesting. And seems likely to continue to increase Trump’s expanding waistline; he weighed 236 pounds in 2016 and 239 in 2018.

But no, Speaker Pelosi, the President is not now “morbidly obese.” He’s about 77 pounds away, actually.

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