Family wants Santa to shape up

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Santa needs a makeover.

In our society, the fat-free pitch is everywhere.

Americans are working out at the gym in record numbers and eating low-carb meals in an effort to lead healthier lives.

Then along comes Santa every Christmas. Dressed in a bright red suit, he's hard to miss.

More importantly, he's a big man physically.

The overweight guy laughs and jokes with children and gives them gifts.

Talk about a nightmare. As parents, we spent a lot of time advising our children about the importance of healthy eating.

Then along comes Santa, who promptly chows down on a ton of Christmas cookies and guzzles a pitcher of eggnog.

He's clearly not concerned about his weight or its impact on the poor reindeer who already have a ton of presents to pull through the nighttime sky.

Surely Santa could do his part and trim down a little for the holidays. Rudolph and the rest of those reindeer, I'm sure, would thank him for such consideration.

Besides, Santa needs to take better care of himself so he can continue to make that Christmas journey.

At his size, getting down a chimney is no easy task. A trimmer Santa would find it much easier to make his rounds. Also, Mrs. Claus wouldn't have to work so hard to get all that soot out of his clothes.

Even children are getting dismayed at his girth. My 9-year-old daughter, Bailey, informed me the other day that she wants to leave a glass of skim milk for Santa because he needs to slim down a little.

And it's best if Santa gets on the scale voluntarily. If he ignores our health-conscious pleas, he risks being singled out by the surgeon general as a public health crisis in the same way that Big Tobacco was targeted in recent years.

The federal government could issue warnings, advising people that Santa is a bad role model, even at football games, because he refuses to work out or eat right.

As a result, the surgeon general would caution that Santa could become a major expense to taxpayers who would end up footing the bill for his medical care.

The federal government has limited cigarette advertising, citing public health concerns. It might do the same when it comes to store promotions of jolly St. Nick.

The surgeon general certainly would advise Santa to walk a little more and ride the sleigh less. He might want to join a health club when the holidays are over so he'll be in shape by next Christmas.

When it comes to slimming down, there would be history on his side.

Until the 1800s, people pictured Saint Nicholas as a tall, thin, stately man who wore bishop's robes and rode a white horse.

But in 1809, American author Washington Irving described St. Nick as a stout, jolly man who wore a broad-brimmed hat and huge breeches, and smoked a long pipe (clearly another health concern).

Later in the century, author Clement Moore's Christmas poem and cartoonist Thomas Nast's drawings made Santa Claus into a lovable, overweight icon.

But judging from history, we could live with a thinner Santa -- just as long as he keeps the reindeer.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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