CHICAGO — While the nation debated the veracity of conspiracy theories on President Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, I began to worry about the one thing The Donald, quarantined Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, hospitalized former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and 42.4 percent of Americans and I all have in common.
We’re dangerously fat. As soon as Trump tweeted his positive test results, news stories quoted respected physicians and “Dr. Oz” dropping the O-word — “Obesity,” that is — issuing speculative warnings that Trump’s fast-food physique might cause the president extreme suffering, or worse.
That is a touchy topic in the anti-body shaming world we live in. Obesity as a contributing factor to severe coronavirus complications remains a mostly taboo subject that most polite people — like my mother, for instance — don’t bring up in plus-sized company.
As a fat man, I will take certain liberties discussing topics that affect people of heft. Still, back in April, a regular-sized Chicago journalist accused me— a reporter of girth — of fat-shaming Gov. Pritzker when I publicly wondered: “Does everybody look like they’re getting fatter during the pandemic, or is it just me and the governor?”
I don’t know why it’s such a sensitive topic. Last time I checked, lard ass is not a protected class of people. Still, some news outlets tip-toe around the beer-belly risks associated with COVID-19.
Even the Youngstown, Ohio, news station that localized the fat-guy COVID-19 angle with headline pun: “Mercy Health doctor weighs in on President Trump’s COVID diagnosis” — quoted a doctor who said “obesity is a risk factor,” along with a long list of other underlying conditions including heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease and a person’s age.
Hopefully, Trump’s coronavirus eliminates the negative stigma associated with warning fat people that having a body-by-McDonald’s could be the thing that kills you if catch COVID-19.
Carolina Population Center researcher Barry Popkin agrees.
“It’s not fat shaming,” Popkin said. “It’s a matter of risk and warning them to be more cautious. Obesity means you’ve got to be more careful. It’s the same thing we say to people in nursing homes and people with underlying conditions. But with obesity, you need to be even more careful.”
Popkin is not fat, but he knows what he’s talking about.
He led a massive meta-analysis of research studies around the globe that focused on the effects COVID-19 has on obese people published last month in Obesity Reviews, a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal.
The study didn’t have good news for guys like me, Gov. Pritzker and the 61 percent of people in the Chicago metro area that the Centers for Disease Control says are either overweight or obese.
“You’re more than double, essentially 130 percent more likely to be hospitalized than someone who is not obese. Also, if you’re obese, you’re 74 percent more likely to be put in an intensive care unit. And you’re 46 percent more likely to die,” Popkin said.
“So essentially, linkages to serious outcomes with