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P.G. Sittenfeld Headshot

Why Politicians Get Fat

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Never has there been a bucket of fried chicken, a slice of greasy pizza, or a juicy double cheeseburger that I wasn't happy to have appear on my plate. I love to eat, and I'm not shy about indulging my enthusiasm for food.

As a first-time candidate for public office, I've quickly realized that just as so many other daily routines take on a life of their own in the context of trying to get elected, chowing down has its own set of rules and realities on the campaign trail.

The primary impact is predictable enough: Candidates eat more, and we eat less sensibly.

Obama's arugula-ism would seem to be the exception; Bill Clinton's donut diving feels much more familiar. So yes, my go-to dress slacks are fitting a bit more snugly.

Recently, three important supporters of my candidacy who all keep very busy schedules separately proposed getting lunch on the same day. I didn't want to risk having to push back any of the meetings for several weeks, so at 11 a.m., I ate bacon and eggs at a breakfast diner. At 12:15 p.m., I sat down at a burger joint for my second lunch of the day and finished just in time to go eat soup and a sandwich at a hip downtown bistro at 1:30 p.m. for lunch #3. (In an attempt at restraint, I ate dinner only twice later that night -- just kidding.)

Another example: Two Saturdays ago, I devoured five hot dogs at three different festivals during the day. It turns out burgers and hotdogs are as common as handshakes on the campaign trail. The gobbling of grilled meat at various community events this past 4th of July weekend practically felt like my patriotic duty.

As I see it, there are three reasons why candidates experience a spike in our caloric consumption.

First, meetings take place over meals. If I could propose talking business or catching up during a jog, I'd be all for it, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

Second, time is always short, and on-the-go eating tends to be less healthy eating. Those five hot-dogs I scarfed down on a recent Saturday probably took a combined three minutes to eat, all done while standing up or in motion.

And third, as a candidate constantly trying to build relationships, when someone offers you something to eat, it's much better to say 'Yes!' than to say 'No.'

Is there any silver lining to such an undisciplined diet?

True, I don't plan to be the most svelte I've ever been come this November's election, but some people have suggested to me that a little bit of extra cushioning creates a more trustworthy aura.

The attitude seems to be: "Good for you if you manage to stay fit and lean, but if you're carrying a few extra pounds, well then, heck, you're one of us!"

I would add that the notion of appetite seems to be an all-too appropriate campaign metaphor.

Staying hungry, figuratively if not literally, is the only way to win.

All those hotdogs later, I'm still looking forward to the next one.

P.G Sittenfeld is the Assistant Director of The Community Learning Center Institute. P.G. was born and currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is a 2011 candidate for Cincinnati City Council, his first run for elected office. He attended Princeton University, and completed his graduate studies at Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship. Learn more at www.VotePG.com and follow P.G. on Facebook at Vote PG.