As he prepares for what seems an inevitable, albeit still unofficial, run at the White House, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has adopted the Paleo diet, trimming his figure with the all-meat, all-the-time regimen. Although Bush has not qualified how many pounds he has lost since switching to the so-called “Caveman” eating habits, the presidential hopeful has been working toward a leaner, meaner build. Reuters estimates that he has dropped something like 30 pounds. The preparation might be geared towards Bush’s health, or the shunning might be aesthetic — cameras, after all, are supposed to add 10 pounds, and Bush will be courting quite a few of them over the coming months.
The Paleo Diet, which has attracted all sorts of celebrity adherents, recommends that people eat like our hunter-gatherer ancestors by amping up on meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seafood while cutting out carbohydrates, sugars, alcohol, dairy and processed foods. (Basically, everything good.) Bush was turned onto the trendy diet after his son, George P. Bush, recommended it to him and Jeb Bush, Jr.
When meeting with potential donors in Tallahassee, Florida, in February, Bush made a few quips about his new diet:
Continue to pray that I stick on this Paleo diet where my pants fall down. Perpetually starving to death apparently is the source of losing weight.
But the science behind the Paleo diet is rather mixed. According to The Scientific American, the eating regimen places too much emphasis on stereotypical understandings of what cavemen ate and skimps on healthy forms of dairy, beans, and grains. After all, what our ancestors ate varied widely by geographic location and the available resources.
As Dr. Christopher Ochner, a nutrition expert from New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, noted, anyone can see weight-loss results if they cut out additional calories from carbohydrates and focus more on protein and fat-based foods that make you feel fuller sooner.
"It's just a fad, there's no magic to it," Ochner told Reuters. "If you called it something else and just ate more lean protein and fresh fruits you would lose weight."
The diet may be more of a fad than a healthy, balanced habit, but the results in Bush’s case have been striking. To hear Steve Holland from Reuters describe the probably presidential contender’s new bod:
Today the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Bush sports a more chiseled look.
Of course, Bush’s true diet tests lie ahead of him on the campaign trail. From attending state fairs laden with fried food on a stick to eating breakfast in diners across small-town America, politicians can find sugar, carbohydrates, and fat wherever they turn. And I imagine that chowing down on a stalk of celery in lieu of apple pie doesn’t seem to carry the same appeal with the voters.
But Bush is not alone in his quest to trim down ahead of a presidential run. Before he threw his hat in the ring for the 2008 contest, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) shed some 100-odd pounds. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has lost weight as well over the past year after quietly going in for gastric band surgery. Politico noted that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is “looking trim these days.”
Perhaps former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) called out the trend of dieting political figures best when asked whether or not he would be seeking the White House in 2012.
“If you see me losing 40 pounds, that means I’m either running or have cancer,” Barbour said.
Of course, the dieting component of political campaigns plays to the worst of our social norms and stereotypes around size and body image. Ultimately, Bush’s decision to forgo the doughnut and layer on the man meat is more of a reflection upon us: It is a sad state of affairs that candidates with larger girths feel the need to play to a prejudiced electorate who expects and values candidates for their thinness.
Granted, there are instances in which a person’s size does raise real health concerns. But for the most part, people with pudgier builds are generally just as healthy as their dieting counterparts.
Ultimately, we hope that presidential candidates would pay attention to proper eating and exercise habits in order to stay healthy rather than to bow to the pressures of America’s harsh fat-shaming practices.
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