HEALTHY LIVING
12/21/2012 02:35 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2012

Santa Claus Obesity: Santa Is Getting Fatter, May Be Bad Influence On Children

Jolly ol' St. Nicholas, with his "bowl full of jelly" belly, has long been beloved by children everywhere for his snuggly tummy and rosy, rotund face.

But it seems the venerated gift giver (or at least, his shopping mall-dwelling doppelgängers) is getting way too chubby -- and doctors warn that the added weight is not cause for holiday cheer.

According to a Friday report by ABC News, titled "Many Santas Are Now Ho Ho Ho-bese," Santa Claus stand-ins seem to be getting fatter every year.

Adele Saidy, owner of costume store Adele's of Hollywood who has been designing Santa costumes for more than four decades, told the network that she's observed an alarming trend in recent years as Santa suit sizes have continued to balloon.

“They are getting larger and larger,” she told ABC News. “Last year and this year, 25 percent of my Santas -- oh, I don’t want to say it -- they are really overweight.”

ABC News reports:

When Adele started out, the roomiest Santa suit she sold was designed to fit someone who weighed between 200 and 275 pounds with a girth of about 50 inches. Now, she notes, very few of her customers need any extra padding to pull off the fat and jolly look.

The largest size she made this season fits someone who is 300 to 425 pounds and up to a 76 inch girth. She filled six such supersized orders.

Saidy is not the only Santa suit-seller that has observed this literal growth. An increasing number of retailers are now stocking their shelves with costumes that can fit Santas who wear a size XXXL or larger.

This is not the first time that Santa's growing belly has made the news.

In 1996, the Augusta Chronicle reported that Santa suits had been growing in size for many years.

"The suits have always been big. But it's a question of how big. Extra large isn't always big enough and now we're getting calls for extra extra large," Jenny Zink, a veteran Santa suit maker, told the Chronicle at the time.

A report in the Herald-Journal in 2004 reiterated this growing trend. Santasuits.com noted at the time that demand for larger Santa suits (up to 4XL) had been growing steadily.

In 2010, John Tantillo, in a Fox News op-ed, lamented that Santa has become "just too darn fat" and that his growing waistline was not providing a healthy example for young children.

Tantillo wrote:

[A]s one of children’s most prominent role models, Santa has got to think about the message he is sending by constantly giving in to the whims of his stomach and Mrs. Claus’ perilous overfeeding…

Some of you are probably protesting: “but Santa has to be fat…” Wrong. While Santa can be plump and huggable, he shouldn’t be a walking heart attack. Besides, being fat isn’t an essential Santa characteristic. Being caring and generous is.

Tantillo went on to point out that the round-bellied Santa Claus that we have grown accustomed to is a relatively modern iteration of Father Christmas.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast has often been credited as the "inventor" of the modern Santa Claus, who had previously not been known to be particularly plump. In 1862, Nast drew the jolly old elf for Harper's Weekly, depicting him as an amply plump man -- similar to the one familiar to us today.

(Nast, incidentally, is also believed to be the person behind the myth that Santa hails from the North Pole.)

In recent years, medical professionals have lamented Santa's growing weight problem, and some have called for moves to promote a thinner Father Christmas.

“His popularity should be used to promote healthy living,” Dr. Nathan Grills from Monash University in Australia wrote in a 2009 article, titled "Santa Claus: a public health pariah?," for bmj.com.

“Given Santa’s fame, he has considerable potential to influence individual and societal behavior -- and not necessarily for good,” Grills continued. “I am suspicious of how he has been co-opted for marketing purposes.”

In 2007, Steven K. Galson, who was then the acting U.S. surgeon general, declared that Santa should lose some weight.

“It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise... Santa is no different,” he told the Boston Herald at the time, according to Yahoo! News.

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States. This year, the U.S., with its obesity rate of 33.8 percent (that's about one in every three people), was ranked by the OECD as the fattest country in the developed world.

Do you think we should encourage the idea of a thinner Santa Claus? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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