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Oprah's Weight and Obama's Food-o-rama

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

According to a new USA Today/Gallup Poll, Obama is the man Americans admire most. And that fixation has focused recently upon his fitness, which some say even contributed to his victory in the election.

Those who doubt Obama's pro-organic positions are referred to an array of nutritional news stories, blogs, photos and video streams of him eating, golfing, playing basketball, working out at the gym, etc. This past week, one of the largest Internet searches was sneaking a peak of the hearty and shirtless president-elect on the beach at his $9 million Hawaiian holiday getaway. There's even a Website committed to every possible link between food, drinks and Obama,, including Barack's favorite trail mix and his beer of choice, the "audacity of hops."

While many admire Obama's physique and others commend his athletic ability, critics are busy lambasting some of his present actions as not what he pitched on the campaign trail. They say proof is in his personal consumption practices, which include periodic binges of fast and fatty foods and nicotine fixes. Further political evidence is found in his choice for agriculture secretary, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, whom many frown upon for his support for big agribusiness, genetically modified crops and ethanol subsidies.

To be honest, I'm not sure if Obama is fit enough to be America's next nutritional guru, but I would remind him (especially as a relatively young president) that his health disciplines can help shape our country's youth like few others in the past, especially in a processed and fast food nation, in which there are more food additives than grains of sand at the beach, not to mention that obesity now affects one-third of all youth.

Here's something else of which I am quite certain: that we should not be a tenth as fixated upon Obama's nutritional plan (or even Oprah's fluctuating weight) as we should be on our own. Whether Obama sneaks a few puffs or Oprah splurges on bagels and cream cheese, we should be more self-reflective than judgmental and examine our own eating and exercise habits, and not just those our culture admires. In an age where organic foods are making mainstream news, gaining an upper hand on dinner tables and restaurant menus, we all need to fight to be fit and provide better models of well-being, instead of waiting for another "government bailout" in the form of universal health care to rescue us from our declining health.

I truly believe that the remedy to our health care crisis begins with Americans, not governmental intervention and more bureaucracy that mandates socialized medicine. Our Founders agreed. They never could have imagined a government micromanaging civilian diets by creating a Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thomas Jefferson once quipped, "Was the government to prescribe to us our medicine and diet, our bodies would be in such keeping as our souls are now." Our Founders' health care system was a very simple one: take care of your health.

We don't need to pay hundreds of billions of dollars through new taxes to provide universal medical coverage. If anything, I believe the government needs to discover more ways to motivate personal responsibility and disease prevention, encourage the states' role as stages for new market-based ideas, support county and community health collaborations, and challenge the private sector to seek creative ways to bring down medical costs.

Most of all, if we took better care of ourselves, we could reduce our personal and national medical costs, and live longer and happier at the same time. That is also exactly why I've endorsed the Total Gym for over 30 years and devoted an entire chapter in my new book "Black Belt Patriotism" to "Be fit for the fight," which contains for the first time my personal diet and workout plan as well as 50 years of fitness knowledge that can help you overcome the obstacles to being a better you in 2009.

A short time back, a friend sent me one of those Chuck Norris Facts that circulate the Internet. It read, "Chuck Norris can eat just one Lay's potato chip." Whoever wrote that fact has not seen me when I am watching a football game at home. I can tear the bag open during the first quarter and ask myself by halftime, "What's this empty bag doing in my hand (while licking the salt from my fingertips)?" I won't even tell you how quick a bowl of ice cream can disappear in the second half!

I'm a believer in new beginnings. That is why I'm an advocate of New Year's resolutions. Now, before tuning me out about fresh starts, hear me out. The potential to fail is always present. But so is the potential to succeed and soar to the next level. And studies show that our successes actually happen more often than we think.

A University of Washington survey conducted a number of years ago showed that 63 percent of the people questioned were still keeping their No. 1 resolution after two months. That's great and hope-filled news.

Whether you want to exercise more, lose weight, stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, make a new spiritual commitment or make new friends, don't ever quit striving to better yourself each and every year.

Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it, "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." If you do, I believe you too will find the power and discipline to eat just one Lay's potato chip! Of course, except during football games!

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