Bill Clinton, who rarely turned down a Big Mac, barbeque from Shuggs in Little Rock, Ark., or a slice of White House cake, has joined the crusade to put fat kids on a diet and a treadmill. [Check out U.S. News's new iPad app.]
The former president provides the introduction to a new cartoon book from former New York Mayor Ed Koch and his sister Pat Koch Thaler that tells the tale of Eddie, a fat and lazy kid whose dream of winning at dodge ball prompts him to swap cookies for carrots and to start jogging.
"I'm delighted to see books like Eddie Shapes Up encouraging children to embrace wellness at an early age," pens Clinton. "After undergoing two heart surgeries, I knew I would have to change my lifestyle in order to stay well. The rewards of good health have made it all worthwhile. I only wish I had started on this adventure as a young man."
In the book, published by Zagat, the restaurant guide company, Eddie is embarrassed to play outside with kids because he's so chubby his jeans hardly fit. "'They must have shrunk when they were washed,' he thought," reads the children's book. [See the month's best editorial cartoons.]
At lunch, he buys chocolate milk, and eats the cookies and sandwich his mom packed, but throws away carrots and an apple. He even asked for a friend's potato chips.
At recess he gets tossed early in a game of dodge ball and cries. His friend Noah then suggests he join his gang in some jogging. "We like you and we don't want to say anything that will be hurtful," says another friend Ben. "But you are a little heavy and out of shape. Maybe it's because of the way you eat." [Read Schlesinger: Michelle Obama's anti-obesity crusade should have conservative support.]
That night he dreams of winning at dodge ball, prompting him to eat better and get in shape, eventually exacting revenge against a school bully by hitting him with the dodge ball.
Even though he says he should have started exercising earlier, Clinton came to Washington as a jogger, often running during his 1992 campaign, sometimes ending at McDonalds. In fact, he built a jogging track around the South Lawn to work out on. He also golfed regularly. At the White House, the first family replaced the long-time French chef with American health chef Walter Scheib. [See photos of Michelle Obama.]
But sweets were his downfall, according to former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier who tells stories about how Clinton would sneak down to the kitchen for cake and once blew a fuse when he couldn't find the second half of a low-calorie strawberry cake.