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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Legislators finding fitness a tough task

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

We caught up with legislators during opening week of this year's session. Organizers had staged a "New Year, New You" fitness fair at the Capitol, urging political types to eat healthy, exercise and otherwise make good lifestyle choices. So we asked some lawmakers who said they'd make those resolutions if we could catch up with them throughout the legislative session.

Some legislators say that long hours, lunch and dinner meetings, snacking and lack of exercise are leading to weight gain during the three-month session.

Advertiser library photo

What we found was that lawmakers who had the best intentions have faced long hours, lack of exercise, lunch and dinner meetings and an omnipresent snack jar — and that has them picking up the pounds.

In January, Alicia Maluafiti of Kaho'omiki, Hawai'i's Council on Physical Activity, said it's not atypical for Capitol staffers to gain 10 pounds over a three-month session. You could compare it to the college freshman's year-long battle of the bulge.

Two months later, our pols found themselves packing on the predicted pounds.

House Health Committee Chairman Dennis Arakaki, D-30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley, Alewa), said he's not doing too well on his resolution to be healthier this year.

"There has not been time to even have lunch, let alone exercise," he said.

Arakaki, 55, admitted he has gained 5 pounds since the session opened two months ago. "I have been snacking more, here and at home." As a lawmaker in his 18th session, he's aware of the easy weight gain that comes with long hours at the State Capitol hashing out the hot issues.

He said he'll keep trying. And he takes comfort in knowing that he used to gain 10 pounds each session and has trimmed that to an average gain of about half that.

Rep. Hermina Morita, D-14th (Kapa'a, Hana-lei), got a rude shock going into her healthy push. When she returned home to Kaua'i on a recent visit, she found that she weighed 5 pounds more than she thought she was.

So Morita, 48, bought new walking shoes and peeled off 2 pounds. She's usually in the office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. "I try to walk between floors, etc., and that's about the only exercise I am getting."

Other than a Valentine's Day slide into sweets and snacks, Morita says that she has been eating better and is thinking about buying a pedometer.

Rep. Brian Blundell, R-10th (W. Maui), a freshman lawmaker who walks and runs regularly when he's home on Maui, has had trouble finding time to exercise and eat well.

Between the fast-food meals and living away from home, Blundell, 62, said he has gained about 8 pounds.

Then, he figured he'd better get back to exercise. "I decided to start easy by doing long walks and the next day I could barely walk!"

Because he usually eats out and on the run, he often chooses the fastest option. "Junk food's easier to get."