Being the president of the United States means debating with politicians, following strict security protocol, and promoting the best interests of Americans—along with being the leader of the free world. But like the rest of us, presidents do have their share of strange habits.
Take John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States. According to Thurston Clarke’s book, JFK’s Last Hundred Days, he often traveled with a bathroom scale because he was obsessed with his weight. He also reportedly avoided swimming in public because he felt sensitive about his “Fitzgerald breasts.”
The thing was, he wasn’t overweight. Standing at six feet one inch tall, JFK weighed about 172 pounds, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. By the National Institute of Health’s body mass index standards, his weight was perfectly normal for someone of his height. Don’t miss these rarely seen photos of JFK with Jackie Kennedy.
So why did JFK have such a fixation on his weight? It may have arisen from how closely his mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, tracked the health of her nine children. To help her remember her kids’ physical conditions, she wrote down their weights, shoe sizes, dental treatments, eye examinations, and illnesses on note cards in an “extensive filing system.” The cards, Rose said, were “Kennedy desperation.”
Rose was even known to have told JFK’s younger sister, Rosemary, that she shouldn’t eat dessert because she needed to lose weight, Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff, whose aunt was Rosemary’s caretaker, told PEOPLE. Koehler-Pentacoff sometimes had dinner with Rosemary and could see her looking out for desserts her mother wouldn’t let her have.
“Rose and Joe [JFK’s father] were concerned about all the kids’ weights,” Kate Clifford Larson, author of Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, revealed in the same PEOPLE article. “It was constant theme throughout their whole lives.”
So while traveling with a bathroom scale may seem like a humorous quirk, it also provides some insight on the deep-seated personal struggles the former president had to endure. Next, here are 45 more astonishing facts you never knew about U.S. presidents.