Michelle Obama, with her uncanny combination of poise and playfulness, sat down with Larry King last night to officially launch her Let’s Move program, a National campaign to encourage healthy eating and fight the childhood obesity epidemic. But while many applaud her for starting a conversation (and putting her money – or at least Federal funds – where her mouth is), others are criticizing her for bringing her own girls, Sasha and Malia, into the mix and making their private weight issues a public matter. In her sit down with Larry, she gave both sides fuel for their fire.
Larry indulged the first lady for the first few minutes and they chatted about the program, it’s goals, the new task force and the $10 billion price tag to overhaul the calorie-laden and nutrient-deficient food being fed 29 million kids in our schools across America. It’s a very impressive and audacious plan. But then he charged in and asked Michelle to comment on this latest hot topic – how she felt about the criticism being hurled at her, did she feel it was justified, should she talk about her kids’ brush with fat?
Obviously prepared for this query, Michelle held her own and tried to keep things general but with a personal touch — she echoed previous sentiments about coming to this issue as a mom, the need to share her personal struggle to connect with the people and a continuing mantra that the issue at hand is “not about weight and looks but about health and quality of life.” But despite her insistence that this issue is about the inside (fit), not the outside (fat), there were still moments I agreed with her detractors, and felt she was saying “My doctor said my girls were fat so we made some changes.” But does that really matter in the big picture? Should this secondary issue really cloud the primary problem at hand?
Self-Esteem expert Jess Weiner weighed in on this for us:
Michelle Obama did a common mom mistake by choosing to talk about her daughter’s body to someone other than her daughter! And to a media no less that is already obsessed with body image and girls – the ramifications aren’t even beginning for her in how this will impact her daughter’s self-esteem. I know she meant well and meant to talk about the inspiration for her concern but to pin your child as the poster child for potential obesity at age 8 is just misinformed and wrong!
But Jess couldn’t deny that the obesity epidemic is a very worth cause to tackle:
“I do think we need to do something drastic about our children’s health – we just have to streamline the language parent’s use and make sure it is sensitive and knowledgeable about girls/eating disorders/self-confidence.”
Agreeing with Jess, it does seem like this was a case of “It’s not what you do (the program), it’s how you do it (keep your girls out of it?) that’s plaguing Michelle but most likely won’t slow her down. There’s definitely room for support, conversations and strategies for both the national dilemma and more personal struggles. Hopefully we can find our way to both.