Health News

Santa says "no, no, no" to going on a diet

NEW YORK, Dec 7 (Reuters Life!) - Santa has one message to calls this Christmas for him to set an example for children by losing weight -- no no no.

The bearded, rotund Santa has in recent years been accused of being a fraud, an interloper and even politically incorrect but now he also faces accusations of being unhealthy and a bad role model as child obesity rates soar.

Santa has come under pressure to get rid of the wobbling belly under his red suit with Santas at a British shopping center -- Bluewater near Dartford, Kent -- ordered to attend a month-long boot camp with exercises before greeting children.

The acting U.S. surgeon general has said a thinner Santa would be a better role model. “It is really important that the people who kids look up to as role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise,” acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven K. Galson was reported as saying after a recent presentation on obesity.

But supporters of the portly present purveyor and his stand-ins in the lead-up to Dec 25 have dismissed calls for a svelte Santa, saying he is not the right person to lead a campaign against childhood obesity.

After all he has boasted a wide girth for over 20 years since transforming from Saint Nicholas and a plump Father Christmas in a green robe in Britain in the 17th century into the rotund man in a red suit and white beard whose image was cemented through Coca-Cola advertisements during the 1930s.

“Kids know Santa in a big red costume. They don’t care if Santa is hugely obese,” said professional Santa Claus, Dutch Schrap, 33, of Pennsylvania, who runs an entertainment business specializing in Santas, called North Pole Entertainment.

“There’s some Santas out there who are absolutely huge.” ROTUND AND RED

Schrap said the ideal Santa is probably about 250 to 275 pounds (from 100 kgs) although he weighs in at just under 200 pounds and wears a “fat suit” when at work.

Susen Mesco, president of event planning company American Events and a frequent Mrs. Claus, said people want a rotund Santa who said “ho ho ho” -- ridiculing reports that a Santa at an Australian store was sacked for saying “ho” as it is American slang for whore and could offend women.

“We have so many things to worry about in the universe besides Santa saying Merry Christmas, ‘ho ho ho’ and what Santa’s chowing down on,” she said.

Sal Lizard, who is playing Santa at a mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts this year, said it is incorrect to assume that a wider waist size is a sign of unhealthiness.

“I have no back issues, no diabetes. I’m a pretty healthy Santa,” said Lizard, 52, who is nearly six feet tall and weighs 300 pounds with a 50-inch waist -- and works out at the YMCA.

A spokeswoman for Macy’s in New York, the department store in the 1947 film “Miracle on 34th Street” about a department store Santa that is home to Santaland every year, would not comment directly on any need for Santa to diet.

But spokeswoman Elina Kazan said in the 1822 poem “The Night Before Christmas,” Santa was portrayed as “chubby and plump”... “with a little round belly, that shook when he laughed like a bowl of jelly.” “We uphold the image and tradition of Santa,” she said.

(Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

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