Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are trying to prove their working-class roots as they campaign across the U.S., but the man who is truly one of us is Newt Gingrich, who, like so many Americans, is a crash dieter. The Washington Post's Jerry Markon dug through thousands of documents in the Gingrich archive at the University of West Georgia, and found several gems, among them that Gingrich attacked Ronald Reagan and that his first wife threw pizza in his face. But Markon also reveals that Newt hates being called fat:
"His staff noted that he could be sensitive about his weight. When a staff member referred to Gingrich as “the big man” in a 1984 memo, he scrawled at the top: “The big man? I am on Scarsdale,” an apparent reference to the then-popular Scarsdale diet."
The Scarsdale Medical Diet (you know, the one with the grapefruits) is only one of many diets Gingrich tried. (He's getting some morning exercise in the 1989 photograph above.) "I like shakes," Gingrich said of his Slim-Fast diet in 1991, according to The Los Angeles Times. An "associate" told the paper:
"He's one of the most insecure people I've ever met... It's really kind of touching, but I always got the sense that he constantly needs positive reinforcement. I have a theory: Newt is the fat kid who always got beaten up and now finds himself with power.'
Who among us hasn't looked in the mirror and seen the fat third grader we once were? In her infamous interview with Esquire in 2010, Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, like his staffers, said bodysnarking was Gingrich's one real vulnerability: "You know what he hated most?... When they talked about him being fat. That weight thing was personal."
In the mid-1990s, Newt gained the weight back, but soon returned to the dieting game. In the first six months of 1997, he lost 25 pounds. That began with a diet that allowed more chewing -- "broiled chicken, broiled steak, baked potatoes, and more broiled chicken," a spokesman told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April 1997. No more beer. By August he'd lost 25 pounds, and only had to go 10 or 15 more to get to his goal weight of 205, The Washingtonian reported. He even considered talking about it on Oprah. By August 1997, Gingrich's plan had more variety. When visiting Salt Lake City, The Deseret News reported, "his staff circulated a lengthy list of diet do's and don'ts." Do's: Healthy veggies, garlic or onion powder for flavor, a snack at 4p.m. Don't's: Canned veggies, cooking in butter or oil, salt. But it didn't last. Alas, by April 2006, Ross Douthat, then of The Atlantic, wrote, "He's gone a little more to fat: never svelte, his body now is made for television, where the chest-up camera angles conceal the stomach that, like his reputation, precedes him into every room."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.