Michelle Obama has had a tremendous impact on American families with her push for living healthy and goal of eliminating childhood obesity in her role as first lady. She announced recently that her new initiative aimed at targeting childhood obesity is under way, and adds that her feelings on the program crystallized when she was faced with a less than favorable report from her daughters’, Sasha and Malia, pediatrician.
“We went to our pediatrician all the time,” Obama said, via ABC News. “I thought my kids were perfect — they are and always will be — but [the doctor] warned that he was concerned that something was getting off balance.”
Mrs. Obama says that she was too close to really see the changes in her girls and when the doctor suggested that Mrs. Obama look at her daughters’ BMI numbers, she made small diet changes. Those small changes that she made in their daily habits helped to pull the numbers back into balance.
Instead of being applauded for her efforts, Mrs. Obama has been the subject of controversy for her use of the word “diet.” Reports have said that by using her daughters as an example, she may have harmed their self-esteem. Some critics have said that she should have focused more on lifestyle change, instead of weight loss.
As a mom of young girls, I can see both sides of this issue. I think Mrs. Obama – and President Obama, too, for he has discussed his daughter’s weight and need to diet in the media before – meant well. They were trying to get a message across, and using he word “diet” is indeed sending a clear message.
I try really hard not to use the word diet; for me, the term “diet” demonstrates a beginning and an end. I truly do not want my girls – or my boys for that matter, but girls struggle more with this issue – to think that healthy eating is a “once in a while, until you reach your goal weight” event. If weight was beginning to be an issue, I would work with them to make small, sustainable steps to improve their overall health – choosing water over soda, for example, or whole fruit instead of juice.
The tween/teen years are difficult enough, and hormonal changes and puberty can cause a young girl’s body to make so many changes that often, a focus on obesity becomes a focus on appearance. Focusing on appearance can often lead to eating disorders. The take away message that I want my children to remember from our discussions on weight is, “I love you just exactly the way you are. I want you to be the best that you can be. Let’s play and eat well so that we can be at our best and enjoy our time together for years to come.”