John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Biggest Loser

Posted on October 21, 2009

The Biggest Loser

I was thinking about the television show The Biggest Loser as I was walking to the gym this morning, getting ready to endure 45 minutes of abuse from Gary in bootcamp class.

I am not exactly a model of physical fitness, but working out 5 to 6 times a week helps make me feel like I am on the road to getting there.

The premise of The Biggest Loser is that a group of people from around the country who have basically given up on the whole process of getting in shape are now trying to turn their lives around. They compete against each other to win a cash prize by seeing who can lose the most weight. They endure the taunts of two obnoxious personal trainers, they get abused by a doctor who tells them in no uncertain terms that they are killing themselves with their unhealthy choices, and they are trained by nutritionists on how to eat like normal human beings. And they do all of this on national television.

It makes for great television, and at times, it can be quite emotional.

It is interesting to hear the stories about how all of these folks just gave up when it came to their physical fitness and personal health. Sometimes it is depression, sometimes it is just bad habits catching up to them, sometimes it is busyness that comes with kids, and sometimes it is just life. What makes these stories so interesting is that what happened to them can happen to all of us, and actually it often does. Obesity is a huge problem in America, which is remarkable, given the fact that so many people around the globe don’t have enough to eat.

It is also interesting to see how the show teaches the contestants to lose the weight. They don’t just all go to the gym everyday. They go to the gym and they learn how to eat less. They learn that they have to have a comprehensive strategy that requires discipline, consistency, and hard work.

I was thinking about all of this in the context of our national debt. Like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, we are depressed about our national debt. We all bemoan the fact that it is clogging our collective, fiscal arteries. We all have a deep understanding that we can’t keep living this way. But like those contestants (before they were contestants) we don’t seem to have a way to get out of it. We continue to eat and we continue to not exercise and we don’t have a way to stop eating and start exercising.

Democrats refuse to acknowledge that we need to stop spending. Republicans refuse to acknowledge that we need to raise more revenue. The Obama Administration wants to actually spend more and tax less (that was how the President got himself elected).

I understand that we have some big national priorities. We should do something to reform our health care system. We need to invest more in highway funding and broadband development. But we can’t keep spending and spending, because we are running out of money.

I also understand that most Americans feel like they are overtaxed. But actually, close to have the country pays nothing when it comes to a federal income tax. And I hate to say this, but the very wealthy (who seem to be mostly Democrats these days), have more invested in America’s financial health than anybody else. If Warren Buffet and his friends at the very top think they should be taxed more, well then, I agree with them. But higher tax revenue should not go for more government spending. It should be earmarked for debt reduction.

The problem with making responsible choices, like eating less and exercising more, is that it is initially very painful. It is awfully hard to get up at 6 in the morning and go for a three mile run when you are woefully out of shape. It is awfully hard to eat the salad instead of the big steak. But after a while, responsible living starts to feel good.

Spending less and raising more revenue is also very hard, especially for politicians. But at some point in time, we are going to have to bite the bullet and start making responsible choices. And if we become more fiscally fit as a country, we will all start feeling better about our nation’s future.