Wednesday, February 10, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama says "Let's Move"

In an on-going effort to address and reduce the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States, First Lady Michelle Obama officially launched the "Let's Move" campaign on Tuesday. As part of this initiative, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum that established The Taking on Childhood Obesity task force. This task force is challenged to prepare and submit to the President within 90 days, a plan that would outline a plan of action detailing a coordinated strategy with key benchmarks identified that would help to reduce childhood obesity in a generation.

I watched the press conference of the launch and found myself agreeing with so many of the points stated. At one point in time Mrs. Obama asked the listeners to close their eyes for a moment and remember back to their childhood experiences. She recalled a time when physical activity was a norm, and not an exception, when the parents fully decided what would be eaten whether the child liked a particular vegetable or not, and when recess and gym classes were mandatory in schools. Personally, I can remember when during a five day school week, you had gym class involving physcial activty four days of the week while one day was designated to Health Class, and regardless of your academic grades, if you didn’t pass gym, you seriously ran the risk of not graduating to the next grade level. We’ve gotten away from those times, and as a direct result, the health of our children is in serious jeopardy. Rates of childhood obesity have tripled and 1 out of 3 children is overweight or obese. Remember the days when “flat-footedness” was a common disqualifier for active duty? Today, the US Military reports that a common disqualifier for military action is obesity. Chronic illnesses such as: High blood pressure, High cholesterol and Type II Diabetes were once only prevalent in adults but are now present in children at alarming levels. The First Lady cited a startling fact that at the current rate of childhood obesity in this country, our children will not live longer than their parents. If we do not make changes today, the quality of our children’s lives will diminish tomorrow.

So what does this “Let’s Move” initiative mean? According to Mrs. Obama, the initiative “seeks to tackle the issue of childhood obesity through waves of efforts across the country” and will focus on four main avenues:

1. Helping kids and parents make healthy choices by providing the useful tools in order to help them do so

2. Providing healthy food at school: Mrs. Obama called on Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act that would help to facilitate this

3. Encouraging physical activity

4. Making healthy food accessible and affordable

Mrs. Obama says that this initiative combines personal choice and public access. Yes, I’ve already heard some of the commentary “I don’t need the government at my dining table telling me what to feed my family and how to feed it, etc.” How I see it is this, I see it as a two-pronged approach. Maybe the government doesn’t need to be at our dining tables per se, but they can definitely make the mandates to insure that the food companies from whom we are buying the products that go onto our dining tables are providing us with the best quality product and the proper informatin to make the appropriate choices. They can make certain that when we send our kids to schools and feed them, they are not being fed high fat, high calorie, high cholesterol or high sodium foods that are going to be a detriment to their health. And in the place where our children spend a large part of the day, the government can help the schools make it feasible to put back time periods that require physical activity. But we as adults must take it further and make the appropriate choices and realize that we are impacting our children in the long run. We can tell the kids to turn off the television and computers and go outside to play, we can take walks with them and most importantly, we can lead by example. For the most part, children will do what they see their parents do.
And, I’m about to go there….we need to be realistic. If a child has hit puberty and is chubby, chances are it’s no longer “baby fat”. Now, that said, I’m not advocating that you seek to make the child thin, but take pause and examine what the child is eating and their level of physical activity. Begin to make the changes at home that will help to facilitate a heatlhier lifestyle like cutting back on sugary soft drinks and incorporating more fruits and veggies in meals. DO NOT belittle the child and call him or her fat. Physical fitness is not about aesthetics, physical fitness is about health.

Regardless of your political affiliation, this is a critical topic that impacts us all. Our children need our help not tomorrow, but today. Let’s get our children healthy so that they can live.

If you’d like to know more about Let’s Move or how you can get involved, go to their website at:

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