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
Chairman, Education Comm. of the States, a national
education policy group
Vice Chairman, Nat’l Gov’r Assoc.
Married to Janet, 3 children
of the Governor
State Capitol # 250
Little Rock, AR 72201
Arkansas Gov. Huckabee Reverses
The 700 Club
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
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
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.
ACQUIRING A HEALTHY STATE
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
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
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
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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