Kirsten Gillibrand, a US Senator from New York, has a new book out called Off the Sidelines. Much of the press surrounding the book has focused on her weight. People Magazine had the headline “Porky in Politics” and NY Daily News led with “Kirsten Gillibrand talks weight struggles and sexism in new book” Of course I read this coverage with interest.
Part of me thought she’s a US friggin’ senator and we’re focused on her weight and then quickly I corrected myself. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senator people care about weight and the vast majority of people personally care about their weight and image too. In Gillibrand’s case there were the countless comments colleagues (I should say other politicians) made. This one was priceless, a male colleague’s comment when seeing Gillibrand at the congressional gym, “Good thing you’re working out, because you wouldn’t want to get porky!” Gillibrand’s response: “Thanks, a—hole.”
Gillibrand says she’s been every size from a 4 to a 16 and in a testament to my belief that the busier you are the more you get done she managed to lose 40 pounds while running for election. Yes, senators (and CEOs and celebrities) keep food journals. Gillibrand also emailed with her sister for support and has seen a nutritionist. So there’s something private and relatable about Gillibrand’s transformation. She has talked about her children saying, “I hope I’m setting a good example for them by making health a priority.” She has talked about her husband’s support in making sure she had time for her morning run.“If I find an hour a day for myself, I’m a better mom and senator.”
But there’s another piece of this and that’s what happened to Gillibrand’s approval ratings with her weight loss. The Post
summed it up this way “Senator Kristen Gillibrand went from plump and obscure to thin and popular.” And though there’s been talk of Chris Christie’s weight
, this Washington Post
writer summed it up best “appearance matters in politics, for male and female candidates. But it is an inescapable fact of political life that for female candidates, appearance matters more.”
Politics is a game, Gillibrand seems to be playing it well but playing it with integrity. While weight loss may have boosted her you can’t lose weight without really putting the time in and doing the work. And you can’t keep weight off for a job or because you “should”.
Were you aware of Gillibrand’s weight loss? Do you think weight matters in every profession? Do you think it’s different depending on your gender?