December 13th, 2012

Is Christie a big fat liar?

Ann Althouse thinks so.

When asked by Barbara Walters why he’s so overweight, Christie answered, “If I could figure that out, I’d fix it.” Althouse comments:

Then he says it doesn’t mean he’s not capable of serving as President. But, come on, when you’re President, all the world’s problems are yours, and you’d better be good at figuring out what’s wrong. These problems are much more complicated than why he’s fat! He not just a bit chubby. He’s very fat. Whatever the subtleties of why people get fat, a good percentage of what he’s carting around has got to be from just plain gorging himself. How can he sit there with a straight, sincere face and say “If I could figure out why, I’d fix it”? At least we have video showing us how he looks when he’s lying.

Christie may be big, and there’s no doubt he’s fat, but the jury’s out on whether or not he’s a liar, and my guess is that he’s not (at least, not on this point). “Whatever the subtleties of why people get fat,” a good percentage is not necessarily or invariably “from just plain gorging” themselves—unless you define “gorging” as anything over the amount they need to sustain a supposedly normal weight, which in the case of many (not all, but many) fat people can be a surprisingly low amount of food.

Yes indeed, in a very narrow (pun intended) sense, fat people do take in more than they burn. But why? And how much is that? I know quite a few fat people who eat no more and are not less active than the thin people I know. I’ve lived with thin roommates who cannot put on weight no matter how much they eat, which is already quite a bit. I’ve lived with heavy roommates who eat 1200 calories a day and can barely lose weight.

Of course, there are fat people who eat a lot more than average. They’re the people you see featured on TV programs where you can watch them having twenty hamburgers at a sitting. I have no idea whether Christie is one of them, but I tend to doubt it, especially with his schedule. Short of that type of true gorging situation, the “subtleties of why people get fat,” as Althouse puts it, are not only subtle but also poorly understood (although we’re learning more all the time), complex, and powerful factors for most people in their own personal fat-thin equation.

I’ve already written about my own efforts in this direction. I’ll recap by saying I’m not fat. But, like so many women, I’d like to lose ten or fifteen pounds to look my best. But to lose that weight it takes cutting back to ridiculously low levels of food intake (and in case you’re going to suggest I go on a lo-carb or paleo or other diet of that type—I have, many times, and they don’t work for me, and I find them singularly unpleasant as well, and I’ve written about it before). I’ve also noticed that if I eat a lot I’m only about seven pounds or so heavier than if I eat very little. My range seems to be very narrow, because my body seems to defend a certain weight quite tenaciously. And that was even true when I was young. When I was a dancer, I had to keep my intake to around 1000 calories a day, day after day, despite intense exercise, to achieve anywhere near the requisite thinness.

If you want to read some interesting articles on current theories about weight gain and the “why” of it, take a look at this. Also see this:

Like many other medical conditions, obesity is the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Polymorphisms in various genes controlling appetite and metabolism predispose to obesity under certain dietary conditions. The percentage of obesity that can be attributed to genetics varies widely, depending on the population examined, from 6% to 85%. As of 2006, more than 41 sites on the human genome have been linked to the development of obesity when a favorable environment is present….Numerous studies of laboratory rodents provide strong evidence that genetics plays an important role in obesity.

And then there’s this:

And this.

As well as this:

When the body needs food, rising levels of the hormone ghrelin, produced in the upper stomach and pancreas, signal the brain and trigger a desire to eat. At the end of a meal, specialized endocrine cells in the wall of the small intestine release other hormones (like cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and oxyntomodulin) that signal satiation. In obese individuals these signaling networks malfunctioned, Laferrère [an endocrinologist specializing in obestiy] knew, leaving them perpetually hungry.

“Perpetually hungry.” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

And those are just a few random articles written for popular consumption. I could go on and on and on, and include the scientific literature as well. But I think the point is clear, which is that the “why” of obesity is not clear, for many if not most people suffering from it.

31 Responses to “Is Christie a big fat liar?”

  1. M J R Says:

    To pile on, . . . I know from bitter experience that the older one gets, the more difficult it is to shed those excess pounds. Godspeed.

  2. blert Says:

    The human brain is a very hungry organ.

    So, it’s not such a surprise that occupations that intensely focus the mind — and not the body — are prone to obesity.

    Some software coders started out pretty normal…

    And, as the months rolled by, started to pack on the pounds.

    I’ve seen some reach ‘two-stool status.’


    This hyper-stimulus of the brain is the fundamental reason why global obesity is taking off like a rocket.


    The other link is melatonin — a hormone that regulates both appetite and sleep.

    Fluorescent illumination – – which is now neigh universal in the West — represses melatonin production.

    So, one tends to stay up all hours — with a crushing appetite.


    Both are compounded for programmers. It’s a rare computer room that is NOT illuminated by fluorescent rays — while the brain is hyper-stimulated by task or entertainment.

    Video gaming is particularly pernicious in this regard.


    The undiscovered cause is always where you have failed to look.

    It’s these manifest changes in our lives that have caused the obesity epidemic — heck, it’s a pandemic.


    As for Neo….

    You’re a million miles from ballet when blogging.

    Whereas dance is demanding of the body — blogging is hyper-demanding of the cerebral cortex.


    In ScyFy, hyper-advanced races/ aliens are presumed to be massively skulled and thin of body.

    It would appear that is wrong. Brainiacs may evolve to blatant fatties!

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    blert: my point about my ballet years was that it was very hard to keep weight off even then, for me—despite the fact that I was intensely active, and also quite young. I did it (I was quite thin for a while), but only by basically existing for years on starvation rations.

    That is true of quite a few dancers, although some are naturally thin. Others subsist on lettuce and a yogurt a day. I kid you not.

  4. chuck Says:

    I thought Althouse really blew it on that one, but didn’t bother to comment. The conversation looked likely to sink into a morass of politics, bigotry, and pseudo science.

  5. Mr. Frank Says:

    Christie has to be pushing 400 pounds. Aside from individual variation, that would take a lot of calories to maintain, maybe 6000.

    Can you be a good president if you can’t control yourself? Clinton was in some views.

  6. mizpants Says:

    A little OT, but it still seems to me that Christie has a better shot at the presidency in 2016 than any other Republican. I’ve been disappointed in him several times, especially with regard to his pathetic worship of Bruce Springsteen, but he hasn’t yet lost me. He’s the only Republican I can think of who is capable of explaining his way around a conceptual corner, and since the case for conservatism is more complex than the case for liberalism, we need a smart, mentally supple explainer. Romney drove me wild with his mental rigidity and passivity.
    And somehow I think Christie has a BETTER shot fat than thin, though a token loss of maybe 50 lbs might reassure voters.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank: did you read the links? The answer is: not necessarily.

    But even if Christie does weigh 400 pounds and eats 6000 calories a day (by the way, according to this site,a sedentary 400-lb man generally has to eat only 5200 calories to maintain that weight—plus, I’ve seen Christie in person and I estimate his weight as 350 pounds, although I’m not sure)—the real question is not only does he eat that much (we don’t know) and if so, why. For example, is his hunger mechanism set so that although he eats a lot his physiology is signaling that he’s “perpetually hungry,” as in the article? That is almost impossible to override, and is not well understood.

    People are way too quick, IMHO, to ascribe obesity to simply eating too much because of greed or gluttony or some moral or willpower failing. It is often (although not always, of course) far more complicated. People whose weight is normal and whose appetite is normal usually have no sense of this, because their bodies tell them to quit eating at the right point.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    mizpants: agreed. I indicated as much here. He’s tough, articulate, a fighter, and charismatic (despite his weight—or perhaps because of it?). Comes across as a guy people can identify with. When he ran for governor, his opponent tried to attack the weight thing—but Christie capitalized on it instead.

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    Semi-OT: am I the only person who’s heartily sick and tired of la Althouse?

  10. bob r Says:

    “Yes indeed, in a very narrow (pun intended) sense, fat people do take in more than they burn.”

    That *may* be generally correct; then again, it *may* be generally incorrect. But it is certainly not correct in *all* cases.

    I think it is true that fat people, at some time in the past, took in more than they burned. But that doesn’t tell you anything about their *current* consumption/burn ratio — they may be burning *exactly* what they consume; and even then they might be maintaining a steady weight or they might be losing weight.

  11. vanderleun Says:

    Well, that pudgeball in waiting Ann had best not gloat too freely. She looks like a likely candidate for the 10 pounds a year club. All in the buttocks.

  12. vanderleun Says:

    Taft, according to LA WIK:

    Evidence from eyewitnesses, and from Taft himself, strongly suggests that during his presidency he had severe obstructive sleep apnea because of his morbid obesity.
    Taft is remembered by some historians as being the most obese president.[101] He was known to have an insatiable appetite that included high caloric meals. His weight problem led to many incidents including loud belches and chronic flatulence.[102] One embarrassing episode involved Taft becoming stuck in a bath tub in the White House. Taft ordered his aides to use butter to dislodge him. He had a very large tub installed.[103]
    Taft often requested and ate large portions of unhealthy foods from the White House kitchen staff, such as red meat and gravy at dinners, and often felt dismayed at his large profile and reputation as a glutton.[104]
    Within a year of leaving the presidency, Taft lost approximately 80 pounds (36 kg). His somnolence problem resolved and, less obviously, his systolic blood pressure dropped 40–50 mmHg (from 210 mmHg). Undoubtedly, this weight loss extended his life.[105] Soon after his weight loss, he had a revival of interest in the outdoors; this led him to explore Alaska.[106] Beginning in 1920, Taft used a cane; this was a gift from Professor of Geology W. S. Foster, and was made of 250,000-year-old petrified wood.[107]

  13. Ann Says:

    I think this comment over at Althouse is undoubtedly true:

    “If Christie runs for POTUS as a Democrat, his weight will not be an issue.”

    Also, not sure Christie is in the 400-pound range. He’s not all that tall, so maybe it’s more like the high 200s.

    Was it Letterman who started the 400-pound thing?

  14. Mr. Frank Says:

    Beyond all the genetic, biological, and scientific explanations, the great increase in the number of obese people (children and adults) is largely a social and cultural phenomenon. Look at old black and white photos from the Civil War through WW II and you will see very few fat people. We have had no genetic drift in the last fifty years.

  15. Sam L. Says:

    OB, I’m not heartily sick of her, but I do have some indisposition.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    Mr. Frank: actually, no one’s saying the problem is entirely genetic. The genetic predisposition coupled with the fact that we are in modern times, where food is plentifully available AND we don’t exercise like lumberjacks—is the cause. That does not mean that all fat people compared to thin people today eat that much more, it means that they gain weight more easily on a similar amount. In Civil War times (for example), when there were no supermarkets brimming with wonderful delicacies plus junk food, where it was much more work to do everything (including getting around) and people burned it off, the people with the genetic predisposition to retain weight were actually favored over others (it’s called “thrifty genes”) because they could keep weight on more easily in times of famine and scarcity. Modern diets, abundance, and convenience mean that those same people can eat not-so-much and be quite heavy.

    In addition, there is quite a bit of evidence that repeated dieting (which people in Civil War times did not do) can reset the setpoint to a higher level, causing people to have even more trouble keeping weight off after the diet.

    There have always been people with these physiological differences, but in the past the genetic tendency (“thrifty genes”) was not able to reach full somatic expression because of environmental factors that cannot be reproduced in a time of abundance and conveniences, except through extreme and unusual dedication, hard work, constant self-denial, and almost continual hunger sensations that must be ignored.

  17. Occam's Beard Says:

    Sam, I should clarify. I get the impression she randomly bounces off issues every which way, apparently using a dart board to decide what she thinks. Whatever position she takes on day X bears no obvious relationship to her position on a related issue on day X+1. She probably thinks this variability makes her independent-minded, but in my book it makes her a flake.

  18. M J R Says:

    Occam’s Beard, 5:10 pm — We mathematics types recognize this Althouse characteristic as a Markov chain.

  19. parker Says:

    Who cares if Christie is fat? All I am concerned about with Christie is whether or not he is a fiscal conservative and willing to wield the big stick should he decide to run for the presidency.

  20. Occam's Beard Says:

    MJR, I took it as a prime example of stochastic policy-making.

  21. nyght Says:

    Semi-OT: am I the only person who’s heartily sick and tired of la Althouse?

    No. I’ve been so for a while. And actually kind of disgusted with her recently. She did a good job covering the Scott Walker thing in Wisconsin, but to me, that’s the only worthwhile reporting she’s done in… well, maybe ever.

    She lost a lot of credibility with me when she endorsed Obama (or maybe just mentioned she voted for him… I can’t remember if she outright endorsed him, though…) in the ’08 election. Fine well and good, but like Noonan, I seriously doubt your conservative creds with that vote. Anyone paying one whit of attention, with ANY head for history, knew EXACTLY what Obama was going to be when it came time to govern.

    To me, there’s no real excuse for a claimed conservative voting for Obama. I can understand not voting for McCain or Romney, but to vote for Obama is… Well, there’s nothing conservative about the man. Never has been.

    I had kind of cut Althouse some slack because of the Walker stuff. But then post election, when she essentially said, “Oh well, I’ll just go gardening anyway. I only marginally preferred Romney because of the economic issues, so whatevs” (I’m paraphrasing, obv).

    That’s disgusting to me. I’m largely a libertarian at this point of my life. There are things in the social realm I don’t agree with, but none of them are things I would ever try to dictate to others. I don’t agree with abortion, but I’d NEVER make the case to reverse Roe v. Wade to the point as to make all abortion illegal. That would be as egregious to me as the current law is. Maybe in some ways worse, because I think if you truly believe in freedom, you are not in the habit of dictating social items.

    Similarly with gay marriage. I’m against it on a language level. It’s not that I think gay couples should not have the same ACTUAL rights (hospital visitation, viewed as family for purposes of estate handling, even adoption), but the word marriage has a > 2000 year connotation and definition. I don’t believe that the legislative body should be in the terms of dictating the meaning of words.

    I firmly believe that those 2 items, and many more social arguments, should be left to the states and localities to decide on their own. I’m a 10th Amendment man, through and through.

    But back to the point, to me, there’s a time and place for that debate. Now is not it. This last election was an argument over the curtain patterns when the house is burning down around you. Perspective.

    The math of Obama’s economic plan not only doesn’t add up, it’s destructive. As someone who has had some awful problems with debt management, I know how humorless your debtees are when you can’t make your payments anymore. My own personal trip to get on top of my own out of control spending has lasted close to a decade at this point, and I’m finally able to say I have retired almost all but my student loans. Not through bankruptcy. I always felt I owed those people money. I signed on the dotted line. It was my responsibility.

    Obama has us on a path to fiscal suicide. Put the fire out first, then we can talk about the curtains.

    So yeah, I’m sick of Althouse. In a way, I’m disgusted by Althouse. To the point I am very wary of clicking links on simply because I do not want to give her my web traffic.

    I don’t really give a damn what she has to say. I don’t care about what she thinks about Obama, or her precious little social issues. I don’t care about her garden. I don’t care about her website. I don’t care about her views.

    And I don’t care what her ill informed decision of Chris Christie is. I have my own very real problems with Chris Christie (his global warming views are a major one, but hardly the only one), but I don’t give a damn about his weight. I don’t know why he’s big. And I don’t care. The ONLY relevant question is whether the man is capable of running the ship.

    His weight and appetite have nothing to do with that. The only weight that Ann Althouse should concern herself with when it comes to others is the very real weight of the ~$300,000k every single man, woman, and child owes to the Leviathan to pay for the largesse of the political class (A resurgence of the very nobility our founders fathers and grandfathers fled from when they left the old world in search of the new. That is how I have come to regard out politicians).

    The figure above is a direct division of the US Census by the total unfunded liability of the United States of America. The Debt + SS + Medicare/caid. I did round, however. People don’t “get” that the sums involved here are beyond catastrophic. I think that’s part of the reason that the government can get away with it. People have no concept of what $1,000,000,000,000.00 means or is. Or that our debt to GDP ratio when you look at the projections of entitlements over time is closing in on 5:1. Or what that means. In short, it means we are in SERIOUS trouble.

    To me, Althouse is useless. Sorry if that seems harsh. I know that you, neo, seem to like her or at least read her and respond to her sometimes. As does Glenn Reynolds. I have enormous respect for the both of you, but I think Althouse is worthless.


  22. Charles Says:

    Christie – fat or thin – I do not care. I used to be a big Christie supporter, THEN, he had the nerve to give Obama a “Tour of the Jersey Shore, post Sandy.”

    No longer do I support Christie – the Democrats will have to run somebody really bad for me to vote for him again.

    And, no I do not think that he was simply being leadership-like; he was trying to LOOK leadership-like. Not the same thing.

  23. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    I don’t know if we’re talking about Christie, or fatness or Althouse.
    So I’ll just mention that I used to be thin as a rail as a youth. Many thought unhealthily so.
    I used a lot of pot and hash.
    I refrained from eating so as not to kill the buzz and to stay alert.
    When I quit, I took up ice cream.
    I could stand to lose 20 pounds.
    I don’t recommend either pot or ice cream.
    My wife was fat when I married her.
    Fat all her life.
    Eight years ago she stopped eating ice cream.
    Then she seriously watched what she ate.
    People are amazed.
    She’s kept off 200 pounds.
    There was a petite under there!

  24. Tom the Redhunter Says:

    Poor Christie. If only he was black and a Democrat, because then it would be racist to talk about it.

  25. George Says:

    The American people will not elect a fat man to the presidency. The stereotype of Fat Man = Bad Man has been a movie staple for over 70 years, starting with Sydney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon. Popular culture imagery trumps every political philosophy. If he’s really pushing 400 pounds, Christie needs to lose 150 pounds, minimum.

  26. Janet Says:

    All I know is this: I started gaining weight at the age of 6 in a disproportionate rate relative to the amount of food I was eating. All my friends came home from school and had ‘snacks’ like whole sandwiches, pieces of cake and a glass of milk, etc. Eating between meals was forbidden in my home to attempt to thwart my problem. Skim milk was the only milk that was allowed in our house. Still, I continued to gain. At 10, thyroid tests were done and nothing was found wrong so I was put on diet pills (this was 50 years ago) by my pediatrician.

    The only time I was at what is considered a ‘normal’ weight was the 15 anxiety fraught years that I developed an eating disorder. I don’t do that anymore, ergo, I am overweight. I still don’t eat between meals, drink black coffee and never keep chips, ice cream, or any type of sweets in the house. I have come to accept what is. I have my grandmother’s legs (too bad she wasn’t Betty Grable in that department) and have never been able to wear shorts comfortably in public. Forget a bathing suit, I just don’t have the chutzpah. But I do have a great life without wearing a size 6.

    I don’t know Ann Althouse from a can of paint, but I bet when she came home from school in the afternoon, she was able to eat a Twinkie with a glass of milk and still wear shorts in the summer.

  27. Lizzy Says:

    Since fatties are the new smokers*, it’s open season on analyzing and criticizing Christie’s weight. Never mind that Barbara or any other journalists feel compelled to discuss Jerrold Nadler’s or Charlie Rangel’s girth. It only matters if Christie runs for president and he has a health issue jeopardizing his ability to govern.

    *Notice how the MSM has been almost completely silent on Obama’s smoking (has he really quit?), and how we don’t discuss his health in general. He’s had times where he looked thin & gaunt, which is just as alarming as being 400lbs.

  28. kcom Says:

    I’ve always been thin but never ascribed it to will power. I’ve often thought that it would be nice to have to only eat once a week. Maybe a big weekend meal and then you’re good for a week. Kind of like a snake. It would be a lot less trouble.

    Being hungry is a distraction more than a pressing need for me most of the time. I can ignore it for great stretches of time while I’m doing other things. To me it often seems more trouble than it’s worth to interrupt what I’m doing to go eat. Since I live alone I don’t have meal times where I’m expected to be present.

    I can imagine there are other people where that feeling of hunger is is less easily ignored. This is my working theory of Chris Christie (and others) who perhaps are more distracted by hunger than I am. When they are busy people and want to get a lot done (which I’m sure he is) they might find removing the nagging distraction is more productive. It’s just easier to eat and get it over with and move on to other activities will full concentration.

  29. tnxplant Says:

    Being thin is not the same as not being fat. I weigh the same as I did 30 years ago, but the composition of that weight is very different. I’ve lost muscle and replaced it with fat. My BMI shows me as slightly underweight, but my percent body fat is double what it was then. TMB (too many birthdays ) is a factor, but I recently started a workout regimen to rebuild at least some of the lost muscle and am improving the quality of what I eat.

    Of much more interest is whether a person is healthy overall. And being unacceptably large from eating too much food is simply another human failing that happens to show up visibly, whereas other failings are harder to detect.

  30. neo-neocon Says:

    kcom: no, that’s not quite it.

    Most people (thin, in-between, and fat) like food. They like to eat; eating is one of life’s great and most consistent pleasures for them, and your idea of eating only once a week would be their idea of a very rotten deal. So although you are right, I think, about the hunger part to a certain extent, you’re barking up the wrong tree. People eat for hunger, yes, but also for pleasure (at the same time they are hungry, or at times when they’re not so very hungry).

    My point is that most people, thin or fat, find eating pleasurable. There is a subset like you, however, and they are mostly thin—who find eating a chore. I have known some of these people.

    Chris Christie on his weight (I found that last night; it’s from this past summer; quite interesting).

  31. Barry Says:


    Your mention of ghrelin, set points and Paleo demonstrates you have done your research. From what I can tell, Althouse hasn’t. Everything you said is right on. It’s all different for different people. I have done super well on Paleo and swear by it but it doesn’t work for everyone. It’s kind of simple for her to accuse Christie of “gluttony.” I’d send her a copy of “Why We Get Fat,” if I cared.

    The sad thing is we are all longing for four years from now when we can hopefully turn this thing around. The bummer is we just had a great chance and let it slip through our chubby fingers.


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