By Adam Graham
Can you turn around a lifetime of unhealthy habits while having one of America’s highest stress jobs? Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee proves that you can.
Michael Landon, in an infamous episode of Highway to Heaven, confronts an overweight teenager about her decision to down a dozen donuts by herself, suggesting that if she doesn’t like her weight, she do something about it. Thanks, Mike. I’m sure she never tried that. Most advice for the Big and the Handsome/Big and the Beautiful falls under the category of “Well intended, but unhelpful or even hurtful.” Particularly when it comes to people who have never struggled with weight other than “to lose a few extra pounds before this event.” So, I was very hesitant about Mike Huckabee’s book.
I’ve known about the weight loss book “Quit Digging Your Grave With Your Knife and Fork” for some time, but have avoided reading it. The title was intimidating right off the bat. On top of it, the book was written by a politician, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who was also a former Baptist preacher. I expected that if one were to pick up, “Quit Digging Your Grave” you would get advice as harsh as the title sounds, coupled with some big government advice for fixing health care. In addition, the idea of learning self-discipline from a politician seemed absurd.
However, you can’t judge a book by its title and Governor Huckabee’s “Quit Digging Your Grave” is a case in point. Huckabee isn’t a doctor and doesn’t pretend to be. While there are some basic nutritional tips in the book, such as avoiding transfats and fatty meats, this book is not part of a formal Huck-a-diet with meal plans, a shake, and chocolate-flavored Huckabars. Huckabee intends his book to “supplement and not supplant” whatever diet you’re on.
Huckabee’s book is a combination of inspiration and practical steps needed to create a lifestyle of health rather than merely dieting. The inspiration part is easy. Huckabee was a massively overweight Governor who, at 47, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was told he was in the last decade of his life. Huckabee couldn’t even go up a flight of stairs without being winded. Huckabee lost 110 pounds and has competed in both the Little Rock and Boston marathons.
In politics, where image is everything, Huckabee is painfully honest about the pain and embarrassment associated with being overweight, including how an antique chair crumbled under his weight in a cabinet meeting, and how nervous he was about people seeing him run in his first 5K race. Huckabee’s honesty makes him easy to relate to as a reader. You don’t feel like you’ve got some waif or superjock preaching at you, but rather you’re listening to someone who has been where you are.
Huckabee is a fun and readable author. It’ll be tempting to sit down and read the book in one sitting. It’s not weighty at all. But the best way to read this book is in bite-sized bits.
Huckabee’s book features twelve stops, things you need to stop doing to achieve success in weight loss.
Three were particularly powerful for me.
Chapter 1: Stop Procrastinating was remarkable as Huckabee explained his fabulous maze of excuses. Most obese people should be familiar with them. The difference is that as a governor, Huckabee had even more.
The most powerful part of that chapter was when Huckabee described the success he’d achieved. As Governor, he’d tasted some of the best food imaginable from fine chefs and great restaurants around the country and the world. He said, “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy.” I try and think of that every time I think of breaking my diet. “If Huckabee said Chicago pizza didn’t taste as good as being healthy, why am I thinking about that cupcake?”
Huckabee’s Twelfth Stop: “Stop Neglecting Your Spiritual Health” would be something you’d expect from a former Baptist Minister. However, Huckabee tries to be as inclusive as possible, and is quite cautious about it. This point came through to me: we are valuable to God, His Creation. Our lives are valuable to him and certainly worth more than all the boxes of soda crackers in the world.
The rest of the book is full of simple, home spun wisdom. The gist of the book is to push you towards a lifestyle change, not a diet, towards lifetime fitness not a magic weight number, and away from using food as a reward (particularly for achieving a weight loss goal.)
As for government, Huckabee sees its role in the weight issue as minimal. He’s against government being “the grease police,” but favors more positive steps such as giving state employees walking breaks as other employees are allowed smoking breaks.
If there’s one criticism I’d offer, it’s that Huckabee tells a few lame jokes such as the old, “My doctor said I was fat and I asked for a second opinion” one. Other than that, Huckabee’s book succeeds at what it sets out to do, provide encouragement and inspiration to those seeking to become more fit.