Stranger things have happened—but not much stranger. Bill Clinton has become a vegan.
While in office, the 42nd president was well known for being a carnivore who ate everything in sight. He had a weakness for meat, particularly fast food, and basically liked everything that wasn’t good for him. After winning the White House in 1992, he famously jogged to a McDonald’s in suburban Washington, D.C., accompanied by a phalanx of Secret Service. Once, he supposedly bought one dozen doughnuts during a campaign stop, and was well on his way to devouring the entire box before an aide distracted him.
Clinton’s family has a history of heart disease, however, and his genetics eventually caught up with him. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2004, and made an effort to watch his diet and control his cholesterol after the operation. It wasn’t enough, however, and about a year ago he turned his lifestyle around; he now consumes no meat, eggs or dairy. The ex-President has lost 20 pounds, and claims to have more energy.
Maintaining a vegan lifestyle is not easy to do. People who adhere to an entirely plant-based diet get very little support from the society at large, which is geared toward those who consume animal protein. Butter is ubiquitous in many prepared foods, and even those who are committed to being vegans find it difficult to give up cheese or ice cream. While vegans tend to live longer and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and many cancers, there are dangers involved in the vegan lifestyle. It’s hard to get enough protein, for one thing, and vitamin deficiencies can occur easily unless someone carefully monitors their food intake.
Clinton is a fan of his new diet, and his foundation has partnered with the American Heart Association to promote dietary awareness, including an initiative in 12,000 schools to offer more exercise and provide healthier lunches. On a personal level, he says his motivations are totally selfish—he wants to live to see his grandchildren.