White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson speaks at the press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Dr. Ronny Jackson praises Trump's health (2018)
01:34 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

President Donald Trump was less than thrilled last year when his personal physician recommended he get on a diet, start exercising and set a goal of losing a dozen pounds.

The President famous for his love of fast food was reluctant to change his eating habits or use the White House fitness room that his most recent predecessors had used to stay in shape. But then he tasted the Dover sole prepared by the White House chefs.

“He was like, ‘Sh**, I have to eat healthy?’ And then he had this delicious Dover sole prepared at the White House and he really liked it,” one White House official said.

But for a man in his 70s, with high cholesterol, a common form of heart disease and a penchant for burgers and fries, the occasional fish dinner might not have been all that his doctor ordered.

A little more than a year later, Trump will undergo his second physical exam as President on Friday at the Walter Reed military hospital. As he prepares for the battery of tests to evaluate his physical health, sources close to him say he has stuck with some minor changes to improve his diet. But an exercise regimen? That’s remained elusive for the 72-year-old President.

“The President received a diet and exercise plan last year after his annual physical, but the President admits he has not followed it religiously,” said Hogan Gidley, the principal deputy White House press secretary.

Lack of exercise

Nearly a dozen White House officials and sources close to Trump said they don’t believe he’s set foot in the fitness room in the White House residence, maintaining his view that exercise would be a waste of the energy he has always touted as one of his best attributes.

That’s despite the insistence last year of his then-physician, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, that while the President was “more enthusiastic about the diet part than the exercise part…we’re going to do both.”

By comparison, Trump’s most recent predecessors were exercise fiends. President Barack Obama played basketball until his knees began troubling him, switching later to cardio work on machines in the White House residence.

President George W. Bush asked for workout equipment, including an elliptical machine and dumbbells, to be installed in a poolside cabana steps from the Oval Office, and for a fold-up treadmill aboard Air Force One. He was also a fanatical bike rider.

White House aides, though, were confident that Trump had not followed his doctor’s advice on exercise. Asked in a Reuters interview last summer about whether he was getting exercise, the President pointed to his infrequent walks from the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, a stone’s throw away.

“I get exercise. I mean I walk, I this, I that,” Trump said. “I run over to a building next door. I get more exercise than people think.”

Trump has frequently hit the golf links during his presidency, about the only form of exercise he engages in, even though he uses a golf cart between holes. But the recent partial government shutdown cut into his golfing regimen, keeping him off the course for 69 straight days, a record during his two-plus years in office.

Red meat and fries

Even as Trump’s diet has changed on the margins – with White House chefs working with a dietician to create healthier meals – the President still enjoys fast food and well-done red meat. When the Clemson University football team visited the White House last month, Trump hosted them with a spread of burgers, chicken nuggets and fries from a variety of fast food chains.

And during a visit to his hotel in Washington last week, the President dined on steak, shrimp and french fries, according to a person who saw him eating.

Trump has also summoned takeout food from his hotel, which aides or household staff collect and bring back to the White House, according to a person familiar with the orders. Those meals are also typically well-done steaks.

Asked by CNN about any changes to the President’s diet, some people close to Trump said they had noticed none at all. Others said they noticed fewer meats and more fish on his plate.

Last year’s physical

Questions about the President’s health have hung over him throughout his presidency, but came into focus a year ago when his physical exam revealed he was borderline obese. A coronary calcium scan revealed he had a common form of heart disease. Jackson disclosed that Trump’s LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” levels were also rising, prompting the President’s doctors to increase the dose of Crestor he was prescribed.

Despite all this, Jackson insisted Trump was in “excellent health.”

Jackson’s assessment of the President’s health and his joke from the White House podium that Trump “might live to be 200 years old” if he improved his diet quickly came under fire from some medical professionals, including from within the White House’s medical unit.

Four current and former White House Medical Unit staff members told CNN they were ashamed of Jackson’s rosy assessment of Trump’s health despite the publicly released data clearly showing a different picture.

“It was an embarrassment to military medicine,” a former White House physician told CNN. “I thought it was really disingenuous. I really think that he was very scripted.”

“You’re being a hypocrite when you’re saying he’s in excellent health,” the doctor added.

Jackson also revealed the results of a cognitive test, which Trump insisted on taking when questions over his mental acuity arose after author Michael Wolff described an erratic and scattered President, citing accounts from former aides and others. Jackson said Trump had received a perfect score on the exam, adding that such an assessment would not normally have been a part of the yearly physical, unless requested by the patient