Home Beauty First Lady Obama “Puts Daughters On Diet,” Blogosphere Goes Nuts

First Lady Obama “Puts Daughters On Diet,” Blogosphere Goes Nuts

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Lately, First Lady Michelle Obama has been giving lots of interviews in regards to launching her new initiative to address childhood obesity. Needless to say, as a growing fitness lover and parent, this makes me so giddy I could squeal. The plans and changes that could come from focusing on our children… the possibilities are endless.

Taken from Yahoo! News:

“In my eyes, I thought my children were perfect,” the first lady said. “I didn’t see the changes.”

But the family’s pediatrician, she said, kept a close eye on trends in African-American children and “warned that he was concerned that something was getting off-balance.” The doctor “cautioned me that I had to take a look at my own children’s BMI,” or body mass index, the first lady said.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were people who were actually put off by her statements publicly addressing Sasha and Malia’s weight. Actually, don’t. Hold that thought.

I’m not surprised because honestly, this kind of uproar is why our children are in such dire straits as it is. Did you know that one in three children develop type 2 diabetes; that one out of every two Black children in America develop type 2 diabetes? That, although being overweight doesn’t cause these directly, it absolutely serves as a symptom that goes hand in hand as the result of a larger problem?

So… in knowing this, the blogosphere has still decided that it doesn’t make sense that the pediatrician might say to the First Lady, “Perhaps you should keep an eye out for your daughter… we don’t know if this has to do with a genetic predisposition, a distribution of the population being predisposed to foods that cause these issues (i.e. too many Blacks living in environments that encourage unhealthy eating), or whatever… but just be careful and keep an eye on that number.” Now, you can imagine my surprise.

I am understanding why my former doctor was so apprehensive about discussing my weight with me. Now, I am understanding how the conversation about health, weight, and where the two actually merge is able to be derailed so easily. Now, I see what the problem is. Are we that easily offended by conversations about weight that we think this kind of chat must remain private? Do we hold so fast to proving to everyone that we are the Joneses (as opposed to keeping up with them) that anyone showing that their armor has a chink in it gets the side eye?

Apparently, First Lady Obama (since bloggers tend to forget that the Obamas have titles) did just that.

A fundamental lack of understanding of what was said, it seems, is what’s causing the uproar. Couple that with an article claiming she put her girls on a diet, and you’ve got the ingredients for a very spicy topic. Although the link from the Daily Mail (a verrrrrry reputable source… that’s sarcasm, by the way) is titled “Reform begins at home: Michelle Obama puts daughters on a diet as she launches anti-obesity campaign,” the only information you will find within includes the following:

Michelle Obama started a campaign to tackle childhood obesity in the U.S. on a personal vein – with an admission that her own daughters were becoming overweight before a diet nipped the problem in the bud.

The First Lady said that she had been warned by the family paediatrician that ‘something was getting out of balance’ with her two children Malia 11, and Sasha, 8.

‘In my eyes I thought my children were perfect – I didn’t see the changes,’ Mrs Obama said at an event organised by US health officials.

Doesn’t sound like a diet to me. Sounds like a lifestyle change. Too bad neither the HuffPo writer nor the StrollerDerby writer tended to that. Imagine how surprised I am.

Firstly, we have an inability to understand the quote about something being “out of balance.” Secondly, we have a failure to understand what a diet is. It’s not always of the “grapefruit/mashed potato/banana diet” ilk. Lastly, it’s the Daily Mail. I don’t know that I’d opt for that as the source of my anything. The heartfelt writings about eating disorders are… meaningful dialogue, but sorely misplaced.

If we want to talk to our young girls about their weight and their health, fine! Lets! Lets make sure that we explain to them the difference between losing weight for health and losing weight for aesthetic purposes. Let’s make sure that we talk to them what the body mass index (or BMI) actually is, and the difference between the BMI’s definition of “overweight” and society’s definition of “overweight.” Let’s make sure that we teach them the importance of good longlasting health. Let’s make sure that we help them understand how beautiful they are, how strong they are, how much world they will have to fight and face every day, how people will use words like “fat” even when they’re rail thin just to try to break them down and break their hearts, and how none of it will make a difference unless they own those understandings.

And most importantly, let’s make sure that we enter those conversations with healthy understandings of the above as well. ‘Cause if I see any more bloggers losing their minds over something so simple and stupid, I’m loading up my paintball gun.

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Barbara Albin February 4, 2010 - 10:18 PM

The President and First Lady’s children are probably the perfect age to start encouraging healthy eating habits. Doesn’t sound like a diet to me, just sounds like sensible eating and of course staying away from the bad habits that were developed by most of us at a young age. This should encourage healthy eating habits that the girls would never have thought about.

Helena Thornton February 4, 2010 - 11:55 PM

Hi I love your writings.
My commit is that blacks and everybody need to eliminate high fruitcose cornsyrup it’s making everyone obese.
Americans used to be a lot slimmer naturaly before it was put in so many of our foods.
This ingredint is hidden in foods you can’t image even salty foods.
So read labels and shop the perimeter of super markets.
Keep up the good work,women really need to learn about health and clean eating.

tye February 7, 2010 - 3:59 PM

No more burgers, whole milk, and soda?!? Oh the horror! Seriously, this is ridiculous. Eliminating junk, and high caloric foods is not a diet. This is good news for her daughters! The lessons they learn now will lead to a healthier, and possibly longer, life. Good for her.

Lesley D February 12, 2010 - 10:13 AM

Great post! I, too, am inspired by the focus shift to children. We also have to remember that it’s not only what they are eating, but where it’s coming from. Grilled chicken is no good if that chicken has been on a diet of antibiotics its whole life. Great site, I intend on making regular visits! Congrats on all of your success.

Tonya February 20, 2010 - 12:49 AM

I was so glad to her First Lady Michelle Obama address childhood obesity. I’m a mother of a 10 year old. Who also was advised by my pediatrician about my daughters weight. My pediatrician has a specialty in childhood cancers. I was not offended at all. I actually voiced my concern about my daughters weight. Healthy eating has to begin at home. I’ve taught my daughter how to make healthy choices. I dont want her to struggle with her weight. It is our job as parents to equip our children with healthy eathing habits.

Lillie March 11, 2010 - 8:41 AM

Too often we forget that charity begins at home and Michelle Obama is certainly practicing what she preaches by first targeting her own daughters and making sure that they are model roles of what she is promoting. Seeing children and adults living longer and healthier lives by changing their lifestyles as it relates to eating should be a welcome benefit for all of us. Today’s technology designed to keep children glued to a TV or a game set doesn’t help the problem. I wish Michelle the best of luck in getting children and parents motivated to fight obesity.

tryin June 20, 2010 - 9:10 AM

I too am a mother and I don’t blame the first lady for looking out for the health of her children. That is something all parents need to do! I have my 15 year old son on a reduced meat diet and exercise plan. He has been doing very well with it and I hope that he will begin cooking vegetarian cuisine for us. He has been cooking since age 7 and wants to be a chef. Sorry to ramble, but yes charity does indeed begin at home!

Marlaina September 28, 2010 - 6:44 AM

Very true, it isn’t dieting to eat healthy. We should have been doing it all along, and it is hard as a parent to admit that you may have started the problem yourself. I have had this problem, and I am lucky my son is still very young and not overweight. It should be normal for us, as black people (and all Americans for that matter) to eat fruits and veggies and our kids shouldn’t think it is a punishment. I think what our First Lady is attempting is commendable and necessary to change this problem so that more of us can live long healthy lives.

Serenity May 24, 2011 - 4:52 PM

I’m not mad at addressing weight concerns about your children….. BUT… As a chubby or as they called it then “stout” child, my mother went crazy punishing me for being fat. She allowed everyone in the house to eat treats while yelling at me for being so chubby that I embarrassed her in front of the doctor. All that ranting and raving didn’t make me any smaller. And I know my mother is crazy, but it’s easy for that sort of thing to get out of control. Along with watching your children’s intake of food also be mindful of the psychological repercussions that can come along with that

Helen June 25, 2011 - 9:49 PM

I am glad this was posted. I didn’t read your whole article yet, but I try to keep a close eye on my daughter who is a bit younger than Sasha. I want her to stay active and skinny. She keeps me moving and going so I say Rock on Michelle and thanks for throwing it out there for all to see.

Thanks Erika for all the great info.. Love this site.

Dvalosesit July 7, 2011 - 4:49 PM

This incident where First Lady Michelle Obama had the discussion with the pediatrici and she addressed her girls’ weight was a few years ago, before President Obama began the campaign to become president. She has recounted this story numerous times to illustrate that no one is immune to dealing with obesity and to focus on healthy living. I think her story is personal and will help other parents understand that they should follow and focus on Get Moving!

Erika Nicole Kendall July 7, 2011 - 8:15 PM

Don’t let the date on the post fool you – this was originally posted almost two years ago. 🙂

linnie December 5, 2011 - 3:43 PM

When my daughter was @10 yrs old and hit a “growth spurt”, I could see she was gaining weight too fast. We started walking more, I had her take karate lessons, and I definitely watched what we were eating in the house. I actually stopped buying sweets and chips for the house. I already bought lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. She even got mad at me because I wouldn’t buy her any video gaming systems-I told her she spent enough time on television as it was. (However, I didn’t realize she was running to the corner gas station to load up on junk.) It has been a long journey for me and her but now as an adult, she is in good shape and works out at the gym regularly.

Tremilla January 27, 2012 - 11:12 AM

I’m happy someone is addressing childhood obesity. And kudos to Ms. Obama for practicing what she preaches. What better way to implement her healthy strategies then with her own daughters. Some people can be so sensitive when it comes to certain topics. I appreciated my doctor for being straight-forward and telling me I needed to lose weight. I was not offended at all because it was the truth. And the fact that I was pre-diabetic also opened my eyes. When it comes to one’s health, people should consider the advice of health care professionals.

Quinnette December 31, 2012 - 1:26 PM

If you saw “The Weight of the Nation”, is childhood obesity REALLY being addressed? Like Serenity, I was a chubster as a kid but I ran an played all day like it was my job. I played sports and ran 12 miles a day in cross country in high school but still weighed 200lbs. I did not have menses for 5 years because I had so little body fat. Back in those days if we got candy and junk we would hike around our neighborhood and the next looking for bottles to sell because my mom could not afford to keep it in the house. But most of the adults and doctors in my life never took notice. Thankfully my mother had the last word.

I think if the words lifestyle change vs. diet was used, this would be a non issue. Also you can’t just all fat kids the same, because surely I would have been labeled the same as everyone else when I could run circles around them and thinner counterparts. That is where the secrecy comes in because if doctors make it a big deal, even though they KNOW, that bmi is seriously flawed, how can anyone else be expected to know?

Erika Nicole Kendall December 31, 2012 - 2:32 PM

Oh, it is… it’s just being addressed incorrectly. Major league.

Kimmie March 18, 2013 - 2:16 AM

I wouldn’t care if the entire world went nuts if I were her, because those are her children. Parents are responsible for their kids health, why wouldn’t a parent put their kid on a diet?

Kathleen September 5, 2013 - 9:25 AM

Learning to eat healthy at an early age. Mrs. Obama is giving her daughters one of the best gifts a mother can give her children: the basis for a healthy lifestyle

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