HEALTH Minister James Reilly is exercising up to twice a day to take control of his weight. That's according to his press secretary.
The spin doctor was responding to my article about the minister's weight in the Sunday Independent last week.
That's twice as much time as I spend burning rubber in the gym – on a very good week – and about the same time training a dedicated athlete strives for.
So why is he still overweight?
Minister Reilly has highlighted a very important lesson here when it comes to the battle of the bulge.
It's 80 per cent diet. That's why we need a junk tax more than ever.
On Monday morning, as Dr Reilly posed with a giant plate of fruit for flashing cameras and journalists, hungry for a juicy news line, I could only smile.
It had been less than 24 hours since my article on his weight had caused staunchly divided opinion among readers when he had to turn up to a pre-organised photocall trumpeting the importance of tackling obesity.
The remarkable juxtaposition of the beautifully arranged rainbow of pineapple, apples and strawberries, next to the burgeoning waistline under his grey jacket was clear for all to see. A picture speaks a thousand words.
The killer thing about food is that whatever you eat in private, you wear in public.
You can't hide from it, you can't run from it. If you battle your weight, you carry it everywhere with you.
And the mental anguish is often worse than what you think your physical appearance even means to anyone else.
I had to commend Dr Reilly for coming out to talk about it. It isn't an easy thing to do.
They say you have to have a tough neck in politics, but the minister is only human after all and when I saw the look on his face holding that plate of healthy fruit on the news, knowing full well what everyone was thinking, I thought of how I wouldn't swap places with him for the world.
The hardest thing to do is acknowledge you have a problem.
A number of newspapers put in calls to Dr Reilly's office this week requesting information on his exact weight and BMI.
Would I want to hear it? No. He's either under or over, he either has a problem or not, he either wants to tackle it or he doesn't.
And that's the other key here – it has to come from yourself.
All it will take is one picture, one breathless climb up a staircase, one night too many feeling really terrible about yourself and all that extra fat you're carrying with you – for you to want to change.
It doesn't matter what anyone else says or does – it has to come from you.
As for the backlash I received following the piece?
I'm fair game as a journalist as much as the minister is fair game as a politician.
In saying that, I had to chuckle at the number of people who ironically opted to dissect my appearance – everything from my weight to my hair colour – to attack my viewpoint.
I have no doubt that if there was a very small picture of me in a woolly polo neck, with glasses on and my hair up, my words would have been taken more seriously.
Maybe some felt that the picture made me appear smug, or that I'm young enough not to have to tackle a weight problem as much as a man in his 50s.
But that's other people's assumptions – and you know what a wise man once said about those.
I'll still live by the maxim, (often wrongly) attributed to Voltaire: "I may not agree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to death your right to say it."
Vive la liberte.