Millions of children may be waiting for a plump, jolly visitor with a white beard and a “Ho, ho, ho!” to squeeze his way down their chimneys this Christmas Eve, toting a bag of presents nearly as fat as his belly.
But the politically correct crowd seems to have a deep-seated notion that old St. Nick, and his belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, could use a membership at the North Pole branch of Weight Watchers.
Ernest Berger, for example, president of the non-profit organization Santa America, which arranges for Santa Claus visits to children in troubled family situations, last week told The Washington Post, “I’m pushing to reduce the size of Santa by 25 percent.” He said his organization of volunteers who dress as Santa is “gently and relentlessly focused on getting these men to be positive about fitness and wellness and reducing their weight.”
Will it soon be “Skinny Claus is coming to town?” It’s such a given to the mainstream media that Kris Kringle binging on so much milk and cookies every year makes him a bad role model for children, they fell hook, line and prancer for a spoof in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.
Headlined “Santa Claus: A Public Health Pariah?” the satirical article by Australian epidemiologist Dr. Nathan Grills playfully argued that Santa’s image around the world promotes obesity and a general unhealthy lifestyle.
“Santa only needs to affect health by 0.1 percent to damage millions of lives,” Grills mockingly complained, recommending that he find an exercise treadmill under his tree this year, and ditch all those sweets for carrots he could share with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
But major news organizations thought Grills was dead serious about vegetarianizing St. Nick. The Associated Press ran a story that began, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus. And he’s a public health menace” and reported that Grills “found a correlation between countries that celebrate Santa and large numbers of fat children.”
Bloomberg News took Grills so seriously its story noted that according to the World Health Organization, 700 million adults will be obese by 2015, up from 400 million in 2005 and causing heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
And Agence France-Presse used its headline to recommend that Santa Claus start going for walks and give up the brandy people leave by the hearth so he can warm up from the snow on those cold Christmas Eves.
The one major news organization that apparently didn’t fall for the gag was Newsweek, which interviewed Grills and found him to be a Santa Claus lover who is “bewildered – and a bit angry – that his Christmas mischief has gotten more publicity than he has ever received for his real job.” Grills focuses on helping charities find the most effective ways of assisting victims of HIV in India.
With cities like New York and Philadelphia banning trans-fat from restaurants, the criminalization of bulging waistlines is closer to being a reality. If much of the media have its way, even North Pole residents won’t be safe from the dietary police.
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