On this day after Thanksgiving, when yesterday's over-eating has given way to today's over-shopping, it seems an appropriate time to consider Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
According to an article that appeared in our local paper on November 14, President Chavez thinks "there are lots of fat people" in his country. He's advising them to exercise and eat a healthy diet in order to lose some weight.
And more power to him. I'm sure (considering everything I ate yesterday, you might even say I have a gut feeling about it) that obesity is a significant problem in his country, just as it is in the United States.
The problem, as I'm sure President Chavez has realized by now, is how to advise people to lose weight without actually calling them fat. It's a challenge, even for an experienced politician with years of practice in artful vagueness.
In this case, he may have tried just a bit too hard. After pointing out that his country had too many fat people, Chavez added, "I'm not saying fat women, because they never get fat. Women sometimes fill out."
Nice case of heavy-handed gallantry, Hugo. He'd have probably been better off not to say anything at all. Just ask any husband who has ever been asked the dreaded question, "Does this make me look fat?" Then ask him what would happen if he responded, "No, dear, just a little too filled out."
President Chavez has placed himself in a delicate situation. Encouraging people to lose weight and be healthier presumably means they'll live longer and be able to cast more votes for him over their lifetimes.
On the other hand, if his language is too direct and he offends too many "filled-out" people, they might just squeeze into the voting booths and fill out their ballots for someone else. Even if Chavez still won, it could be by an uncomfortably slim margin.
Maybe he should have followed the weight-loss example of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and just written a book.
You do have to give President Chavez credit for being brave enough to take on the serious problem of obesity. Just writing about it is enough to inspire me to go take a nice long walk.
But first, to make sure I have enough energy, I might have to go eat that last piece of leftover pie.