Black History Month: Michelle Obama

courtesy of tjwalker.com

February is not only Black History Month, but it is American Heart Month. Most of you are aware that obesity and heart disease are closely linked. Well, this year I choose to celebrate someone I consider a hero making strides to eliminate childhood obesity, and ultimately reduce future rates of heart disease – Michelle Obama.

This month, the First Lady launched her initiative -“Let’s Move” – aimed at creating strategies, programs and solutions that empower families and communities to make healthy decisions about their future.

Bringing together partners from across every corner of our communities: parents, schools, governments and even large corporations and non-profit organizations, the program aims to:
• Give parents helpful information to create environments that support healthy food and fitness choices.
• Provide healthier foods in schools.
• Ensure that every family has access to healthy, affordable food.
• And, help children become more physically active.

Let's Move Our families are suffering. Nearly 40 % of all children in the US are overweight, sugar and overall caloric intake is up, physical activity is down with school physical education program and recess continually being cut due to budget deficits, and access to safe streets so kids can walk to school or just play also have disappeared. Diet and nutrition is also directly linked to performance in school.

Michelle Obama is a mother raising two girls approaching adolescence who are culturally part of a group that sees unfair disparity in risk of overweight, diabetes and heart disease. She isn’t just fulfilling a First Lady’s platform, she is walking the walk – first with building the organic garden in the White House from whose contents regular White House meals are made, where tours and “garden-side” lessons are given and produce is donated to local soup kitchens; her own fitness regimen; the Let’s Move initiative; and, everything in between.

Anyone who’s been alive for more than 20 years knows that change ebbs and flows and there’s no predicting what long-term changes may or may not occur from the First Lady’s efforts. So, she may not be a great black playwright, artist, actress, musician or civil rights leader (though one could argue that access to healthy food should be a civil right), but, she deserves to be recognized during Black History Month. Not just because she holds the title of first African-American First Lady, but also because she is helping nationally to spread the word and encourage others to make health changes in far less time than those of us who have worked in obesity prevention for years have only seen in small local doses. To that I say, thank you Mrs. Obama (now if only I could get her in a Zumba class!)

I’d like to end this post with an an excerpt from Michelle Obama pitching obesity prevention to a local PTA:

“..the reality is, times have changed… parents and kids keep taking on more and more. And as a result, healthy habits all too easily give way to habits of convenience and necessity.

For many kids, those walks to school have been replaced by car or bus rides. And then in schools there are cuts to recess and gym, which mean less play time. Lunchtime may mean a meal heavy with calories and fat, and snack time might be no better. And afternoons running outside after school have been replaced by afternoons sitting inside with the TV, video games, and the Internet — habits that expose our kids to 40,000 advertisements each year, many for unhealthy foods and drinks.

And meanwhile, we as parents, we’re facing our own challenges… parents might want to buy healthy food and they might want to buy that head of broccoli, but let’s be honest, in so many cases those chips are cheaper… they may want to go buy fresh produce, but sometimes there’s no supermarket in their community. So they’re stuck with a choice between fast food and something off the shelf of the local convenience store.

Every parent I meet wants to do the right thing for their kids. But it’s easy to feel like the deck is stacked against us. And too often, we slip into bad habits. But we know we’re not bad parents. But we end up feeling guilty anyway. And believe me, I know what that feels like, because I’ve been there.

And I know there’s some people in the room thinking, oh, sure, Michelle Obama — she can’t relate, she lives in the White House… I’ll be the first to say that I know I am blessed today with more help and support than I ever could have dreamed of…

But it really wasn’t that long ago that I was a working mom…struggling to balance meetings and deadlines and soccer and ballet and a husband whose work kept him away a lot. And there were nights when everybody in my house was tired and hungry, and we just went to the nearest drive-thru. Or I popped something into the microwave. And like any parent, there were times when I made excuses and I told myself that my kids would turn out fine no matter what I did — because I loved them. They’re cute. (Laughter.)

Until one day, my pediatrician pulled me aside and he said, “You know, you might want to think about doing things a little differently.” And that was my wakeup call. That was when I was reminded that I am the parent and I’m the one in charge.

And let’s be honest: Our kids didn’t do this to themselves. They don’t decide what they’re served at meals. They don’t go shopping. They don’t decide whether there’s time for recess and gym. We make those decisions. We set those priorities. We’re the ones in charge.

But that’s the good news — because if we helped create this problem, then we can solve this problem. We can do that. But instead of just talking about it, instead of worrying and wringing our hands about it, we have to do something about it. We have to move. Let’s move…”

Read the full transcript

Let’s Move website – helpful tips and strategies, including recipes and exercise plans

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