The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Gov. Mike Huckabee

Gov. of Arkansas – since July 1996, after Jim Guy Tucker resigned. Also won in 1998 and 2002

Former Lt. Governor

Only 4th Republican governor to be elected statewide since Reconstruction

Chairman, Education Comm. of the States, a national education policy group

Vice Chairman, Nat’l Gov’r Assoc.

Married to Janet, 3 children

Office of the Governor
State Capitol # 250
Little Rock, AR 72201


Arkansas Gov. Huckabee Reverses Type-II Diabetes

The 700 Club WAKE-UP CALL

At one time, Gov. Mike Huckabee was a big man. He dreaded climbing the two flights of marble stairs in the Arkansas statehouse. He prayed there would be no reporters at the top because he knew he needed two minutes to catch his breath. Few knew how seriously Gov. Huckabee’s weight affected his health; he also tried to ignore it.

His wake-up call came in June 2003 when his friend, former Gov. Frank White, whom he had seen just days before, died suddenly of a heart attack. Huckabee resolved to change his diet and lifestyle, and in about 10 months, he lost 105 pounds.

Raised in Hope, Ark., Gov. Huckabee saw both parents and two grandparents suffer weight-related Type-II diabetes. He says that when you have parents who grew up dirt-poor during the Depression, you inherit the philosophy that you should eat what’s here today because there might not be another meal. “Foods that stretch one’s wallet also stretch the waistline – potatoes, meatloaf that’s part breadcrumbs. In the South, we batter and fry everything and eat it with gravy,” he says.

The Governor says his weight ballooned after he got married, but he certainly doesn't blame this on his wife. "My weight is absolutely my own doing," he says. "I ate too much and exercised too little, simple as that."


In 1996 Gov. Huckabee lost and regained 50 pounds while trying many commercial diet plans. At 5’11” and nearly 280 pounds, he was dubbed 'wide-Body' by a local newspaper columnist. Gov. Huckabee was a great fast-food eater. After missing meals, he grabbed whatever he could eat in a car or on a plane. He didn’t have any energy. “Standing for long periods, my joints just hurt,” he says.

Even when he had symptoms of heart blockage, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, the Governor didn’t go to the doctor immediately because he knew he would be hospitalized for three days, and he didn’t have the time. This is how stubborn he was: “I can afford to die, but not to be out the next three days,” he explains.

In March 2003, he woke up with his arm numb and tingly. Immediately, the doctor diagnosed the condition as diabetes. “I was devastated and angry at myself. I hadn’t done anything to prevent it,” Huckabee says. His doctor told him that without some lifestyle changes, he was in the last decade of his life. "That meant I wouldn’t see a bunch of grandkids grow up,” Huckabee realized.

In June 2003, Gov. Huckabee sought the advice of Dr. Phillip Kern, head of the Weight Control Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The Governor went from eating 3,000 calories a day to only 800 calories a day by switching to meal replacement shakes and unlimited vegetables. It was difficult. After three months, Dr. Kern introduced a balanced diet of 1,600 daily calories. To avoid the drive-thru, Gov. Huckabee started taking his meals in a cooler: a salad and some lean turkey or chicken for lunch, apples for snacks, and grilled or steamed vegetables.

Despite his switch to healthier eating, there are certain foods the Governor still indulges in today. “I still splurge on barbecued ribs because no self-respecting Southerner can completely give up some things God intended us to enjoy,” he says.

After he lost 40 pounds, exercise was added to the program. Though tough at first, after four months, Huckabee could run three to four miles. This past July 4th he ran his first 5K and finished in 28:39 minutes.


By March 2004, Gov. Huckabee had lost 105 pounds and reversed all the symptoms of his diabetes. Now he’s focused on his state’s weight problem. According to a 2001 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas ranked 8th among the 50 states in mortality due to heart disease, 1st in stroke mortality, 9th in cancer overall, and 6th in deaths due to lung cancer.

The burden of chronic disease in Arkansas and the increased risk of citizens in the state to these diseases are directly linked to a lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, and poor lifestyle choices, including use of tobacco products. These issues are evident in all segments of the population. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 2001 indicated that 14 percent of Arkansas youth were overweight, 34 percent did not get enough exercise, and 19 percent were current smokers. The 2002 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey says the 37 percent of adult Arkansans were overweight and 24 percent were obese. That survey also showed that 27 percent engaged in no leisure-time activity and 26 percent were current smokers. From 1991 through 2002, Arkansas has seen an 80-percent increase in obesity.

The Medicaid Program costs more than $3 billion annually and is accessed by 600,000 people a year. This is what is happening in a state with a population of only 2.7 million. Seventy-seven percent of Medicaid spending is on chronic disease, the bulk of which is caused by poor choices in diet, physical activity, and tobacco use.

The government determined that these serious health problems and associated costs must be addressed through behavioral changes. The Governor says there is a growing need to give people the information and the opportunity to live a healthier life. Recognizing the unhealthy state of Arkansas citizens, while acknowledging initiatives currently in place, Gov. Huckabee determined that more needed to be done. He asked that policy makers, health professionals, and business leaders partner to change the culture of health throughout the state.

He has created “Healthy Arkansas,” an initiative that sets the state on a course to reach the Healthy People 2010 goals in obesity, physical inactivity, and tobacco use. The program is a comprehensive effort to clearly define specific areas where behavioral changes can lead to healthier citizens. Efforts include enlisting the media in disseminating information and presenting awards to encourage the participants.

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