Michelle Obama Shares Health Scare That Forced Her to Change Family's Habits
byEricka SouterMar 28, 2016
The statistics are frightening: One in three children are obese in this country and by 2030, obesity-related illnesses could result in more than half a trillion dollars in health care costs.
It's easy to see why first lady Michelle Obama has made it her mission to make America's children healthier. During a press event at the White House last week, she shared the successes of her "Let's Move!" initiative with Mom.me.
· Nearly 80 million people (that's 1 in 4 Americans) now live in a "Let's Move!" city where kids can walk to school on new sidewalks, participate in summer meal programs and join local athletic leagues.
· More than 30 million kids are eating healthier school breakfast and lunches.
· 2 million kids now have "Let's Move!" salad bars in their schools.
· Over 10 million kids attend "Let's Move!" active schools where they get 60 minutes of physical activity a day.
· 1.6 million kids are now attending healthier daycare centers where fruits and vegetables have replaced cookies and juice.
· Thousands of chain restaurants have created healthier kids' menus, and food and beverage companies cut 6.4 trillion calories from their products.
It's an amazing shift in the health of the country, to be sure. Though, Mrs. Obama readily admits there was a time when her own daughters were on the verge of a weight issue. Her wake-up call came during a routine doctor's visit with Sasha and Malia.
"I came to this issue really as a mom," she shares. "We were at our pediatrician's office for a routine checkup and after doing the exam and taking measurements, he got this look of concern on his face. He asked me, 'What are you all eating at home?' Right then and there, my heart sank. The thought that I was maybe doing something that wasn't good for my kids was devastating."
Mrs. Obama readily admits there was a time when her own daughters were on the verge of a weight issue. Her wake-up call came during a routine doctor's visit with Sasha and Malia.
Then a busy working mom, life was a constant juggling act for the family. "Barack was traveling all the time, running for some office," she explains. "He was going back and forth to Washington. At the time, the girls were little and they had those little girl schedules filled with soccer practices, birthday parties, playdates and dance practice." Always rushing and pressed for time, she did what so many parents do—she grabbed the most quick-and-easy foods available. That meant relying on drive-thrus, takeout joints and microwavable meals most days. Yet, now terrified by the health risks, she researched simple, affordable approaches to the problem.
"For starters, I tried to cook more," she says. "Nothing crazy. Just a few more home-cooked dinners each week. I made baked chicken on Monday and pasta and salad on Wednesday. I always tried to make a nice Sunday dinner that would provide leftovers for the week. Instead of cookies and chips for snacks and sugary drinks, we switched to string cheese, fruit and lots of water. And desert went from being a basic human right every night to being a special treat for weekends. We really shook things up."
Her girls, however, were not fans of the nutrition-focused plan. "This new routine was not very popular," she laughs. "I remember how I would sort out their lunches at the kitchen table and they would look at their sorry apple slices and cheese sticks. They would have these sad little faces. They would speak longingly of their beloved snack foods that were no longer in our pantry. And as they ate their veggies at dinner, they would curse their mother under their breath—which was OK, as long as it was under their breath."
That initial resistance eventually gave way to healthier habits that are second nature today.
"Our kids adjusted and their palates actually changed," she adds. "They got used to eating foods that weren't drenched in sugar, salt and fat." Now, Sasha and Malia are more likely to grab an apple instead of candy or chips if they're hungry. That's a shift she's hoping kids all over the country will make with the help of their parents.
"No one plays a bigger role in our kids' health than parents," she emphasizes. With cheap, fast food options on nearly every corner and store aisles filled with sugary or sodium-packed snacks, it may seem like a daunting task but FLOTUS and her team have set up resources for you.
Go to letsmove.gov to learn how you can make those lifesaving changes and kickstart healthier routines in your home, school or community. Check out Activities Across the USA to see if your town already participates in a "Let's Move!" initiative.