Beyond the World news headlines
Madeleine Albright pumps iron — and vouches for healthy lifestyle
We knew she was tough — but this tough?
“I can leg press 450 pounds,” the former U.S. Secretary of State modestly told a panel on health in Mexico City on Friday.
Albright, who also served in the 1990s as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke of the importance of good nutrition at a panel sponsored by dietary supplement company Herbalife, which counts some 50,000 Mexicans among its global distributors.
The challenges of eating right have not been lost on the eminent Albright, who now sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, chairs global strategy firm Albright Stonebridge, and is a professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University. “The only thing I can tell you is that as Secretary of State and before that as UN Ambassador I got very fat because I was eating for my country,” Albright said.
When seated at dinners next to global heads of state, Albright was inevitably presented with sumptuous — and caloric — national dishes, which took a measure of skilled diplomacy to decline. “I would try to diet and push it around the plate and the person would look at me and say ‘Why aren’t you eating our national whatever?’ It was a very fattening job.” But a healthy lifestyle has come easier in recent years, Albright said, who shared the following tidbit from her exercise regime. “One of the things that nobody ever believes about me that’s true is that I can leg press 450 pounds and I exercise three times a week,” she said.
Health is a crucial, yet under emphasized component of Mexico’s economic development, health experts said. The pressing problem of security in the midst of a brutal drug war that has cast a shadow over the country and slowed a recovery from recession. Whereas partnership between the United States and Mexico in the auto and high-tech sectors has already been established, to the benefit of both countries, the market in Mexico for health products has been “barely touched,” said the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual. “One area we have only just started to touch is health. Health and healthcare and the provision of health products,” said Pascual.
The stakes are high for Mexico, a country with some 45 million who live in poverty, according to the ambassador. And the link between poverty and insufficient nutrition is strong. The country has the highest percentage of overweight citizens, at 70 percent, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, followed by the United States at 68 percent. Mexico is No. 2 in obesity, with 30 percent of the population so affected, compared to 34 percent in the United States. “It undercuts what Mexico is trying to do in terms of developing a healthy, hard-working population that can change the economic picture in Mexico,” said Albright.
Education is key to the effort to improve nutrition for millions of Mexicans, said panelists. The importance of youth education was a message relayed by U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on a visit to Mexico in April.