White House physician Ronny Jackson gave a rundown of the president’s health Tuesday for the press corps. Unlike Trump’s previous checkup, described by personal physician Harold Bornstein in hilariously hyperbolic language, the numbers struck me as remarkably unremarkable. If someone read me these numbers, I’d conclude the patient in question was healthy. The blood tests and advanced imaging data reported are entirely objective measurements, and in this case they were largely within acceptable and healthy limits.
But one result was conspicuously abnormal: the president’s body mass index. At 6’3” and 239 pounds, Trump’s BMI is 29.9, exactly 0.1 units shy of one big league distinction: obesity. Remarkably, the president was found to be exactly 1 pound lighter than a weight that would have pushed him over the edge to receive the diagnosis of obesity. Similarly, if he were merely 1/10 of an inch shorter, he would also be considered obese.
Technically, BMI is also an objective measure—you plug in the numbers and see your result. But it can be gamed. The president could have fasted prior to being weighed, meaning that he would have stepped onto the scale while on the low end of an adult’s typical 2–4 pound daily variance and eked it out as merely “overweight.”
The more interesting question is the president’s height. The president has long maintained that he is 6’3”, which already observed as at least questionable if not demonstrably false. But further, he’s been reporting that height since at least the 1980s—strange because many, if not most, adults lose around an inch in height as the age from 30 to 70. When was the last time Trump was measured barefoot?
It’s striking that the sole aspect of the presidential physical in which the data can be massaged elicited results that place the president teetering on such a conspicuous and, for a man who seems to value optics so much, potentially embarrassing barrier. If the president is in fact obese, he should not be ashamed—he should own it and use his pulpit to inspire others to make healthier choices. But I’m afraid he’ll probably just keep reaching for those extra ice cream scoops.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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