As you’ve probably heard by now, Tom Hanks recently announced that he has type 2 diabetes. Since Hanks has gained and lost weight for various movie roles, doctors quoted in media articles of course blamed his diabetes on “extreme weight fluctuations.” I’m reasonably sure the doctors weren’t suggesting Hanks developed diabetes by becoming a skinny guy for his roles in Philadelphia and Castaway, so what they’re saying is that he developed diabetes by getting fatter for other roles.
Maybe, maybe not. I vote not. His weight may have fluctuated for various movie roles, but I’ve never seen him on screen on thought, “Wow, Tom Hanks is really getting fat.”
According to what I could find online, Hanks beefed up to 225 pounds for his role as a former baseball player in A League of Their Own. That may sound like a lot of weight to carry around, but take a look at a picture of him from that film:
Sure, he’s got some thickness around the belly there, but that’s all it is: some thickness around the belly. We’re not looking at what I’d call an obese guy in that picture. I wouldn’t even call him a fat guy. He looks like what he was portraying in that film: an ex-jock who’s gotten a bit soft. Despite coming across on camera as a guy with a long-and-lean body type, Tom Hanks has more muscle on him than you might think. Here he is again in Castaway, when his character first landed on the island:
Once again, he’s got a belly … but look at the thickness of his arms and legs. His calves are nearly the size of my thighs. There’s a lot of weight in those legs. When I saw that film in a theater and there was a scene of him dancing around to celebrate making fire, I remember being impressed with the size of his leg muscles.
If you’ve seen Castaway (good movie), you know that partway through the film, we suddenly jump ahead in time and are shocked to see a totally ripped Tom Hanks – now as a guy who’s been barely surviving on fish and coconuts for years:
If you’d asked me at the time to guess how much he weighed while shooting that section of the film, I would have said 150 pounds. But Hanks weighed 170 pounds in those scenes. He’s six feet tall, so his BMI at that point was just over 23 – in the middle of the “normal” range, despite having almost no body fat. So once again, we’re talking about a guy who is heavier than he looks, thanks to surprisingly thick muscles.
I don’t think temporarily weighing 225 pounds for a film shot in 2000 is the reason he has diabetes in 2013. According to an article on CNN, here’s what his doctor told him:
“I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated,’ ” Hanks told Letterman. ” ‘You’ve got Type 2 diabetes, young man.’ “
He’s had high blood sugar since age 36? Hanks is 57 now. Around age 36, he was shooting Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. Those were all after A League of Their Own, and he was a lean guy in all of them – positively skinny, in fact, for his role as a lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia.
So clearly it’s possible to be quite lean and still have chronically high blood sugar, which is what leads to type 2 diabetes. Here’s another quote from the CNN article:
The “Forrest Gump” star said his condition is manageable through diet, and Letterman said that he too has high blood sugar.
So David Letterman also has high blood sugar, which would classify him as pre-diabetic. Here’s a picture of him from about a year ago:
Does that look like a fat guy to you? Has David Letterman gone through “extreme weight fluctuations” as part of his career? I don’t think so. That’s why I’m opposed to the CDC, the USDA, the AMA and pretty much all the other health “experts” obsessing about how much people weigh with all their talk about the obesity epidemic. The real epidemic is the number of people walking around with chronically high blood sugar.
I’m happy to report that at least one major media outlet didn’t jump on the “he got diabetes because he was fatter in two movie roles” bandwagon. Here’s a quote from the U.K. Telegraph:
But the link with diabetes isn’t as clear as Hanks, and the doctors who have been wheeled out stateside to support his theory, have made out.
While some studies have suggested that yo-yo dieting might destabilise metabolism and lead to chronic weight gain, with increased risk of heart disease or diabetes, others have been inconclusive. Studies in animals have shown that yo-yo dieting is far better for the body than remaining obese.
Even the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes isn’t as clear cut as many make out. There are many of relatively normal weight who go on to develop the disease, suggesting that in some cases it can be just “one of those things”.
From his description, it sounds as though Tom Hanks had impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes) for years.
Including long stretches during which he was a lean guy.
I’m glad to hear Hanks plans to manage his diabetes through diet – but I hope it’s not the diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association. If it is, someday we’ll be reading more articles about Tom Hanks suffering from the effects of diabetes. I’d much rather read reviews of many more masterful acting performances yet to come.