Are you using that metaphorically or is it truly 99 percent?
It’s not far off. I’ll debate anyone on this. You just can’t out-exercise your mouth. The physics don’t work. Ray Cronise, a former NASA scientist who I worked with on the Phelps anecdote you mentioned, sent me an email a couple of days ago where he said something like, “You know, we were right when we estimated that something like 24 flights of stairs burns a third of an Oreo.” Now, I have my issues with the calories in, calories out model—but I don’t want to digress too far. The main point: you can lose 120 pounds with zero additional exercise in a year, no problem … If you try to lose 120 pounds through exercise and don’t fix your diet, you will fail. It just takes one injury or calendaring problem to lead you to back to your fat self. Diet travels with you, in sickness and in health. Food tends to be more bulletproof to the winds and storms of lifestyle change, if that makes sense. That doesn’t mean you can’t exercise, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise; it just means that you shouldn’t view it as priority #1.
You grew up on Long Island. Why do you think New York City has become America’s center of gravity when it comes to public health policy and the debate between personal liberty and public health?
I think it’s a combination of things:
A) New York City is the U.S. media epicenter. It just broadcasts itself more loudly than any other city on Earth.
B) New York City is full of extremely rich people (including billionaires) in two camps: “I’m basically a socialist but can’t say that” liberals and “I think I’m a character in Atlas Shrugged” libertarian types. This creates a real turf war in the political and PR soapbox arenas. And it provides great opportunities for social jockeying and public speeches. Not that I look down at this game; there is huge value in being good at it. New Yorkers are more incentivized and better positioned for it.
San Francisco, where I live now, comes in a close second to New York City, but it doesn’t satisfy A, and instead of B, it’s mostly unemployed—and often crazy—aging hippies running amok. There are a handful of changemakers (e.g. Peter Thiel), but it doesn’t have the power-broadcast dynamic of NYC.
Any final plans for your hypothetical reign as Czar of New York?
I’d outlaw tight pants with “Juicy” written on the ass for anyone with more than 20 percent body fat.