How does this play in Peoria?
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) is taking an unconventional approach to promote a new healthy lifestyles campaign, flaunting his chiseled chest on the cover of the new Men's Health magazine, which declares him "America's fittest congressman."
Schock, who represents central and western Illinois in the House, already had the distinction of being the first U.S. congressman born in the 1980s. The Huffington Post declared him "hottest freshman." Now, Men's Health says that he's the first politician to ever appear shirtless in the magazine.
An article in the June issue describes Schock as "pretty fly for a Republican from Peoria." Appearing at a photo shoot in a "form-fitting Zegna suit and tapered shirt that show off both his musculature and his fashion savvy," it adds that he "looks more like a hit man from a European spy thriller than a boring politician."
Schock, who turns 30 later this month, had previously drawn attention from gossip sites like TMZ, which posted a photo of him wearing only a bathing suit. He said he wanted to use the notoriety for a positive cause.
"You know, there is some risk with it, but I think it's risk worth taking," he said in an interview on NBC's "Today" show Monday, citing the challenge of rising health costs. Eight of 10 dollars the government spends on healthcare is on preventable diseases, he says in Men's Health.
Schock is teaming up with the fitness magazine for the Fit for Life Summer Challenge, urging Americans to sign up and commit to a plan to lose up to 30 pounds by Labor Day.
He told NBC that during college he noticed himself picking up bad habits and decided to seek help at a local gym. Even with his busy schedule traveling between Washington and his Peoria-based district, he finds time to work out every day for at least an hour (he's one of a growing roster of members who swear by the "P90X" system).
"It wasn't even so much that I wanted to lose a ton of weight as it was just to stay physically fit. And there's also a mental benefit," he said. "I notice a huge difference when I get my workout in in the morning and when I don't with how productive I am throughout the rest of the day."
If his cause sounds familiar, it is. Schock praises Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign as well, even as some conservative commentators have decried it as an unwelcome nanny-state intervention into Americans' personal lives.
"She and I come from the same state, Illinois, which is number four in the nation for obese children," he tells the magazine. "One out of five Illinois children are considered obese. Not overweight, obese. And two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. When people hear that, they're shocked, and rightfully so."
President Obama was the first politician to appear in Men's Health, both in November 2008 after his election and again in October 2009.
He was fully clothed both times.