Friday, April 27, 2007

Former Fat Guy for President

Former Fat Guy for President

"Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”

-Fleetwood Mac

“Don’t Stop” was the theme song of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton when he ran for president. Now another Arkansas Governor is running for president, Republican Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee and Clinton have different ideologies, but thinking about tomorrow is their common message.

President Clinton, Governor Huckabee and myself have all fought obesity. Clinton solved his weight problem after emergency bypass heart surgery.

Not a great strategy.

Huckabee did it by losing 100 pounds in a medically-supervised weight loss program. He kept it off and has since become a national model for how to battle obesity.

I’m starting a medically-supervised plan this week. I need to lose as much as Governor Huckabee did.

I lost 90 pounds in 1989 but did not keep it off. After recently reading Huckabee’s book, Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork, I saw where I screwed up.

When I lost the weight, I thought I was cured. I thought I would never be fat again.

I was wrong.

I quit going to the support group and fell back into old eating patterns. I gained about a pound a week.

If you gain a pound a week for two years, you gain 104 pounds.

And that’s exactly what happened to me.

Huckabee made a subtle but important point: obesity is treatable, not curable. Like people addicted to alcohol or drugs, food addicts need to always be in a stage of recovery.

I don’t think everyone gets that. Unlike alcohol or drugs, food is not something you swear off completely.

The key is to replace bad habits with good habits. Driving to fast food restaurants has to be replaced with healthy eating and exercise.

Huckabee’s personal wake-up call was a diagnosis of diabetes. He did not set out to lose any specific poundage goal; he just wanted to get his blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to back normal levels.

His motivation was to add years to his life.

I know I can lose weight but have the habit of hitting a goal and gaining the weight back. Huckabee made me realize that battling obesity is a journey that has no end.

The alternative is an early grave.

Insurance companies offer something called “rated-age” annuities.

To get people to understand them, I explain that these annuities ratings are the mirror opposite of life insurance. People have to pay more for their life insurance if they smoke, skydive or do things that reduce how long they might live.

Rated-age annuities work the other way. Insurance companies invest a lump sum and send a person money for the rest of their lives. They will give an unhealthy person more each month than a healthy one. They don’t plan on the unhealthy person being around as long.

I recently gathered my medical records and applied to several companies for a rated-age annuity.

The consensus was that I would die at age 68. Unless I end my obesity, I will die about 9 years sooner than other men my age.

That was a serious wake-up call. The insurance company actuaries and medical underwriters have billions of dollars riding on their research, and they are usually accurate.

The only way I can prove them wrong is to lose weight and change my lifestyle.

I went back to the medically-supervised program that helped me lose 90 pounds.

This time I am going to get it off and keep it off.

My ace in the hole is Don’s Get-Fit Guys group.

I started the Fit Guys group three years ago and encouraged men in Richmond to join me. We first called it Don’s Fat Guys but changed the name to suit our goal. Three years later we are going strong. We don’t push a particular diet or plan, but everyone in the group has lost weight on their own by focusing on healthy habits.

We will fight to keep those habits for the rest of our lives.

My politics are probably closer to Clinton, but Huckabee seems like my kind of guy. He is a recovering fat guy and likes rock and roll. He can’t be all bad.

Having battled and treated his obesity, he will not stop thinking about tomorrow.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond Kentucky where we want everyone to think about tomorrow. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service.

Don’s Get Fit Guys meet every Tuesday at 5 p.m. at 122 North Second Street in Richmond, Ky.