FLOTUS Michelle Obama has been a media darling in the last few weeks, hitting the talk show circuit to promote the Let’s Move! campaign and do tons of push-ups like a boss. And while her appearances on Ellen and with Jimmy Fallon have been inspiring, it’s not just publicity and fluff–this campaign has actually changed the country for the healthier. According to the New York Times, when Michelle Obama says “move,” America listens.
It’s not hard to remember how critical some people were when Obama first announced that childhood obesity would be her personal First Lady cause. I recall one popular Tweet that was repeated with so much smugness, it’s hard to forget: “Nancy Reagan said ‘Say No to Drugs,’ Laura Bush said ‘Say No to Illiteracy,’ Michelle Obama says ‘Say no to hamburgers.” But, in a country where obesity-related health care costs run around $147 billion dollars each year, saying no to hamburgers was a message that needed to be stated, loud and clear.
According to the Times article, just by speaking up about childhood obesity, obesity-related illness, and how truly easy it is to curb obesity if everyone takes responsibility, Michelle Obama has changed the way the country, on the whole, thinks about our big, fat problem. For example, 80% of Americans now believe that childhood obesity is a serious problem. And we’re even getting a little less fat–a Gallup poll last year showed that there were more Americans at a “normal” weight than there were who were “overweight” for the first time in years.
Additionally, Obama’s strong, clear voice and comprehensive strategy for healthier kids has lead to real policy changes, both by lawmakers and corporations, including limitations on fat and sugar by the country’s leading providers of food for cafeterias, and both Walmart and Walgreen’s shift toward offering more fresh product and healthier snack options. She’s also had a hand in filling in some of the country’s food deserts, and making restaurant offerings more nutritious and healthy.
What Michelle Obama has done with the Let’s Move! campaign is important because, before her, there was no actual, national vocal champion for health and fitness, in kids or adults. There was no one who Middle America was familiar with who was offering pragmatic, real advice to families.
And not scary, government-in-your-kitchen advice, either. Not the kind people tuned out, because damnit, they can eat whatever they want. Advice that made sense, like “exercise more” and “eat more vegetables because you’ll feel better and be healthier.” Somehow, there was no one saying that–which meant that there was no one prompting restaurants, grocery chains, and school cafeterias to stop looking at the bottom line, and start looking at the waist line. There was also no one speaking frankly to children about what a healthy body can mean for them.
Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign may have been questioned at first, but in the long run, the sustainable, tangible changes being made by America’s restaurants, schools, corporations, and, as a result, families, will save every tax payer money…and probably quite a few lives. See? All those push-ups are paying off.
Image: Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson