The following is an "imaginary interview" between me and First Lady Michelle Obama. This is not an actual interview; merely a script that I imagine could have taken place.
HealthGal: Mrs. Obama, it is so nice to meet you. I must confess I am a bit challenged with the news that you just celebrated the opening of this new Shake Shack by consuming a substantial burger with fixings, fries and a chocolate shake. I did hear that your second drink was a diet soda. The uproar over this is amazing!!
Mrs. Obama: You know, HealthGal, I have never denied my love for certain foods, especially fries. In fact, there are several video moments out there that have me confessing my love, love of French fries. I agree that as the platform for Let's Move continues to roll out we all need to review our diet and exercise habits. But that does not mean that one can't indulge with favorite foods now and again. The key is timing and moderation.
HealthGal: Absolutely, Mrs. Obama, I am a firm believer that indulgences really help the person who has dieted and lost weight to be able to maintain their weight. Deprivation for most people simply isn't an option, and we all need occasional guilty pleasures to stay engaged with mostly healthy eating. There are some people who struggle with lifelong weight issues who don't seem to be able to manage a treat - it usually sets them off into a binge. But except for that rare group, we all need to sprinkle a healthy diet with an occasional tasty pleasure. What do you say to all those people out there accusing you of "talking the talk but not walking the walk" because of this super-sized treat meal? There are a lot of people out there right now saying some pretty mean things about you and your meal choice!!
Mrs. Obama: I know, I know, it's not easy being a role model and I am human like everyone else, and though I know I am under constant close scrutiny, I have always admitted to believing a healthy diet includes some treat moments. I took a lot of flack when I shared the story about my wake up call as a mom with my own kids eating habits and weight discussions (with the pediatrician). So I guess I am not surprised that some people think I am a hypocrite when it comes to my platform Let's Move which us an effort to inspire healthier habits among kids, and my recent indulgence. It was a unique occasion though, and I am very serious about the White House garden, eating fresh unprocessed food most of the time, exercising regularly and living a healthy lifestyle. I take my role as a public figure quite seriously. But people need to cut me a bit of slack and realize this was a special meal.
HealthGal: Well, I guess what concerns me a bit as a health professional (Physician Assistant and nutritionist) is the choice you made to eat close to 1700 calories in one sitting comprised of a very high fat, sodium, sugar and processed carbohydrate load - even as a special treat - can tax your digestive and circulatory system quite dramatically, causing inflammation and a risk of a sudden health event. In fact, if you had some soft plaque in your arteries, this kind of sudden dumping of a single heavy calorie/fat/salt load could suddenly disrupt that plaque and cause a heart attack or stroke (if you were susceptible). Even just the lingering inflammation from this very caloric meal is a bit worrisome. So I guess I wish you had just chosen to indulge with a plain hamburger and fries or had just some fries and part of the shake. It's that gargantuan meal - even as a treat - that worries me a bit. I know for the average American it's a "standard meal" but that doesn't make it a smart choice - even for a treat.
Mrs. Obama: Wow, really, I never thought about it that way - I guess even for a special indulgence it was a REALLY hefty load of food and as you said super dose of fat/sodium/sugar. Hmmm....I'm just not sure I can say that I won't ever do it again. I guess I still think it is an occasional indulgence....but I see your point and I will certainly consider re-thinking my position on the size and nature of my future treats. Now if I could just get the President to........
Note to my readers: I definitely have struggled with my own weight and I am delighted to have gifted my children a healthy attitude about food and exercise and weight. They eat mostly healthy choices, exercise regularly and do occasionally indulge. My gift to them was to stop the ongoing generational obesity that was present in several generations of my own family. I do wake up myself, every day, with the recognition that it is another day to control my cravings, eat healthy, get in my exercise effort and most days that's what happens. When I indulge, I usually do it in a restaurant as a shared dessert - so there is portion control (built in) by sharing. I would not personally indulge like Mrs. Obama but I think we need to realize that she does mostly live a healthy life by example, and indulgences are certainly acceptable. I do however think that meals like the one Mrs. Obama had, and often times holiday indulging, can get out of hand and cause momentary damage to our health.
What do you think? Unacceptable to eat like she did? Occasional indulgence, even big ones, OK??
Published On: July 25, 2011