Measuring The Body Politic

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Studies released last week show that being just a few pounds overweight can shorten your life. By the government's method of calculation -- body mass index -- even the famously fit President Bush is overweight, with a BMI of 27.0, well above the 24.9 cutoff (but below the 30 cutoff for obesity). Former president Bill Clinton has been measured at 28.3, while older BMI calculations have put Vice President Cheney at 30.1 and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) at 34.2 (this according to the Web site, though Kennedy has lost weight recently).

To get the skinny on congressional health, The Washington Post asked each Senate office to supply the senator's BMI, which is a calculation based on height and weight. Only eight of the 100 complied, and they were quite lean. An aide to Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) didn't have the senator's exact height and weight but guessed that he has a BMI of 23. "He plays tennis twice a week," said Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman. A suspicious Allyn Brooks-LaSure, spokesman for Robert Menendez, (D-N.J.), responded: "You're trying to get me fired, aren't you?"

Some of the shortest members of the Senate -- Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) -- did not respond. The BMI calculation tends to discriminate against the more compact among us.

"With all due respect, I have no intention of asking Senator Kohl for this information," responded spokeswoman Lynn Becker.

Here's the BMI for the skinny senators who responded:

Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), 22.2. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), 22.5 (6-foot-4, 185 pounds). Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), 23.1 (6-0, 170). "He's got my bet for the best BMI in the Senate," loyal spokesman Bill Ghent said of Carper.

Wayne Allard (R-Colo), 23.5 (6-1, 178). Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), 23.9 (5-9, 162). Nelson is "an avid runner," spokesman Bryan Gulley said.

Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), 24.5 (5-11, 176). Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), 24.7 (6-1, 187). Thomas "runs every morning before work," spokesman Cameron Hardy said.

George Allen (R-Va.), 26.3 (6-3 3/4 , 215). "It's all muscle!" spokesman John Reid said.

To calculate BMI: Divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches, divide the resulting number by your height in inches again, and multiply that number by 703.

-- Dana Milbank (BMI: 28.0)

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