I got into an interesting conversation with my fiance the other day about Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. Although he generally supports his political views, my partner had trouble with the concept of someone being in a leadership position (including making decisions that impact other people’s health) who does not maintain a healthy lifestyle themselves.
Christie at a town hall meeting in Union City, New Jersey February 9, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
My first reaction was indignation. After all, a person’s BMI says nothing about their character or their intellect. Someone’s exercise habits do not reflect their dedication to their job or their ability to make sound decisions. However, in Chris Christie’s case, it’s not just about weight. He has been open about the fact that he struggles with making healthy lifestyle choices.
My fiance then posed the following question, “As a teacher, do feel obligated to maintain a healthy lifestyle since you are an influence on your students?”
I had never thought about my own health in this way before. Yes, I consciously teach my students (directly and indirectly) about health and wellness. We take jumping jack or stair sprint breaks. We hold push up contests. We dispel myths about nutrition and fitness. We discuss my dietary choices and I teach them about food. I talk about my races. I share how much fitness has enhanced my life. I encourage them to be healthy through these conversations and my modeling good lifestyle choices.
But, as a teacher, am I responsible for being a healthy role model? Should that be an implied part of any contract for someone who is in a leadership role (including parenting!)?
Perhaps not, but it is good to remember that, whether we signed up for it or not, others are looking at our actions and learning from our choices. When you make healthy decisions, you are also helping others become healthier as well.
As for Chris Chistie, I applaud him for being willing to openly discuss his struggles with weight loss. I hope that he can find a place of health – for himself, his family and his constituents.