A White House garden filled with all kinds of produce, even sweet potatoes, is a sight for this nutritionist's eyes. The idea that Michelle Obama has made the childhood obesity crisis her major platform is a win-win for the nation's children. Her impetus to "sound the alarm" stems from her own wake up call at the pediatrician's office several years ago. One of my original blogs explored her pediatrician's gentle comments that the kid's weights were a bit troublesome, and that the foods they were routinely being fed might be contributing to the problem.
Nutritionists, dieticians, doctors and other weight experts know that weight issues can be very complicated. Well educated people can over feed their kids or feed their children too many servings of less nutritious food out of love, habit, guilt or even a bit of laziness. People who struggle financially may not have the budget (they feel) to cook or buy healthier foods, or they may simply be overwhelmed with lack of time issues and turn to fast and available food, that is typically high in calories and less nutritious. No accusations here, just explanations and theories. In Mrs. Obama's case I think her children appeared physically to resemble many other kids (it's harder to see overweight issues among many overweight individuals). What I love about the story is the fact that Mrs. Obama heard her pediatrician - she didn't argue with him or give excuses to explain her "feeding approach." She listened, learned and changed. I notice that parents can be very "touchy" when the discussion of food changes in the household (or in schools) comes up. These moments can often be perceived as indictments of their parenting skills. My experience with children who have weight issues is to explain why change is needed, what changes are needed, offer education and a willingness to dialogue and discuss their feelings and perspective. Once they see I am willing to discuss and hear their issues and simply be present to have a conversation, they are oftentimes, more ready to accept change, than their parents are. Again, not a judgement - another observation.
We need drastic shifts in lifestyle patterns across the US, and we need a forceful leader to invoke that change. Our kids will die at an age younger than our own (parent) generation if we don't shift habits now. All of us want the best for our children so though lifestyle changes for your children may be hard to accept, avoid the inclination to make it about you, your guilt and your parenting skills. It's about saving the children, even if it is one small change, one small step at a time.
I would like to offer a comment to the people criticizing Michelle Obama for sharing the weight issues of her children. She did not ever say her kids were fat or use any unkind terminology that I am aware of - she simply shared the fact that she could not clearly see that the kids were gaining weight too fast and she never really understood the dramatic impact that her food choices for them had, on their weight and health profile. We need to lose this critical attitude and use our energies to address the actual crisis - a health crisis of weight that is putting kids at extreme risk. Let's get moving and join the "Let's Move" effort of our first lady.