I awakened this morning to the replay of an interview with Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey as he talked about his experience with Lap-band (Bariatric) surgery. For those who may not know, this procedure allows various degrees of tightening of the stomach preventing, in theory, one’s ingestion of excesses food. It’s supposed to be the last word in helping an individual who has had trouble losing weight. Indeed, many regard it as a last ditch effort to lose weight.
In Governor Christie’s case this may or may not be so, but I’m pulling for him — and I don’t mean pulling on his lap-bands. I didn’t like him very much when he first came on the scene, but over time he has grown on me. The Governor has had a lengthy battle with his weight by his own admission. This doesn’t make him a bad person. In our tradition though many may believe that there must be something wrong with someone who cannot lose excessive weight.
Shakespeare in one of his plays captures well our more modern idea of the obese person. After a night of drinking and excess, Prince Hal goes back through the woods with Falstaff, who apparently was greatly overweight and given to excessive drink as well. Falstaff could not keep up and was panting in earnest as he follows Prince Hal through the woods. Prince Hal seeing this slows down and turns to Falstaff, remarking with concern and in earnest, “Leave gourmandizing! Know the grave doth gape for thee thrice wider than for other men.”
Shakespeare, of course, in the context of the play captures the obese person in modern life as one who big and cumbersome and unable to keep up — indeed, one whose life may be at risk. While Christie is not a modern Falstaff, we worry that he and many, but not all of those excessively overweight, are among those who can’t keep up and are more than just a little compromised by excessive weight. This is certainly true for some, but not for all of our larger brethren. Statistics show us that the longer they carry their weight excess the greater their chances of developing serious medical problems. We know that those who are seriously overweight make much greater use of the medical care system.
Losing weight that one has put on over time is not easy. It ought to be done carefully and slowly since the underlying processes at work in losing weight are not the same nor as simple as those at work in adding on the weight. Many have trouble losing weight and consistently report that it was much harder coming off than it was putting on. Nearly everyone who has tried to lose weight finds that it is much harder to lose than it is to gain weight. We are all hopeful that Governor Christie will be successful. He will find it hard even with the lap bands, but he can do it. Now that he has revealed the surgery all will be watching, but as he notes his battle with his weight is a very personal issue. We should respect that. He had the surgery in February and in the 2-3 months since has clearly taken off some pounds. We need to leave him alone. The results will be clear soon enough.