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I enjoyed this article in today's paper.

Santa sheds weight to be healthy

Charlie Madden's belly no longer shakes like a bowl full of jelly.

The 71-year-old Santa Claus has shed 70 pounds from his five-foot-11 frame over the years -- going from a roof-bending 295 to a reindeer-friendly 225.

And now that he's no longer as plump, the jolly ol' elf hopes to inspire other mall Santas across North America to follow suit.

"The Coca-Cola Santa image from the 1940s is what people think of," he explains from his central Massachusetts home.

"I'm sorry but Coca-Cola's gotten enough mileage from that bowl-full-of-jelly, smoking-a-pipe advertisement."

Madden, a 20-year veteran Santa who works private parties when he's not at the mall, isn't the only one who wants to take the XL out of Xmas.

Two years ago, acting U. S. Surgeon General Steven K. Galson chastised Santa for being a bad role model in this era of unprecedented childhood obesity.

Still, there are those who are resistant to change and insist on a thick St. Nick.

"People will come by and say, 'Santa, you need to gain some weight.' And I say, 'I'm trying to get healthy,'" Madden notes.

"Some say, 'That's a great idea.' The heavier ones look at me down their noses and say, 'No, Santa's gotta be fat.'"

But Madden -- a member of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS), which represents hundreds of Kris Kringles around the globe -- couldn't disagree more.

Diabetes runs in his family and he wants to avoid that Grinch-like disease at all costs.

Plus, he wants to set a good example for the youngsters. That's why he doesn't wear padding.

"This country that I live in is far too overweight," he says, noting many diseases can be avoided by slimming down. "There's something evil about the fact that so many kids are obese."

Madden, who works in sporting goods retail, started to slim down in 1985 when he got into long-distance cycling.

In 1987, he and about 200 other cyclists rode across the U. S. -- from Seattle to Atlantic City -- in 45 days as part of a fundraiser for the American Lung Association.

More than two decades later, he still loves cycling.

"If I'm depressed or upset with the world, I get on my bicycle and I feel 100% better mentally," he says, noting it's good for him to get out of the house.

"If I'm at home, the refrigerator and I cannot co-exist. So if I've got free time, I get on the bicycle and ride. The farther away I get from the refrigerator, the better I feel."

Making his naughty list are fast food, salt and artificial sweeteners.

The rosy-cheeked gift giver loves salmon, while he limits his red meat consumption to "once in a while."

For the most part, Madden eats healthfully six days a week. On Sundays, he satiates cravings with a guilt-free splurge.

Madden tries to cycle every day -- except during the hectic Christmas season when he's at the mall for daily 10-hour shifts. But for much of the year, it works out to 150 weekly miles -- at least 20 miles each outing.

"That's a bicycle ride. Two or three miles is like, 'Why bother?'" he says, noting most of his rides are solo.

"It's very difficult to find folks my age that will ride with me. Even my teenage grandchildren won't ride with me because I go too far and climb too many hills."

To complement his bike rides and keep himself limber, Madden takes a weekly yoga class.

The father of five and grandfather of eight -- who hasn't shaved since 1965 -- still wants to lose another 25 pounds.

"I try to look after myself," he says, admitting he occasionally slips up. "I won't tell anybody I'm perfect."

But when it comes to keeping fit, this Santa would rather be nice than naughty.

Cary Castagna is a certified personal trainer through Can-Fit-Pro. If you have a story for Keeping Fit, e-mail Cary at [email protected]

- - -

Santa Charlie's fitnesstips:

1) When you go grocery shopping, read labels -- and check them twice.

2) Give yourself a gift by giving in to cravings once a week.

3) Don't pout. Work out.

Evil Jr.
6,859 Posts
A perfect article to post to celebrate the Winter Solstice! Happy first day of Winter! The days only get longer from here!

I celebrated by doing the reverse of the ride you did after your exam a week ago (up Weir's Lane). If you're looking for somewhere to test those new studs, the big hill near the dam at Christie Lake is shear ice. What a hairy downhill! Wee! :D

I have four solid days of pigging-out planned for the holidays starting Xmas Eve. My sister tells me we're having lamb AND duck for Xmas dinner. I'm in charge of wine; I can hardly wait!:)

89 Posts
Great article!
Its a shame so many kids ask santa for a xbox or playstation for christmas now. What happend to the days of asking santa for a bike, hockey stick or baseball glove. I know 4 couples with little kids, I got them all a bike for christmas. (I work in a bike shop so it was easy to fix up four little kids bikes) And I plan on getting them all out atleast once a week once the weather gets nice again. Its gonna be great :)
Wouldnt it be nice if they banned video games lol. No way that would ever happen eh.


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