Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Video & Recap: First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Live Chat

First Lady admits love for fast food as she advises parents: Don't talk about weight, let the kids eat some cake...and encourage them to sweat
On Tuesday morning, during her first-ever live webcast, First Lady Michelle Obama answered questions from the public about her Let's Move! campaign.

Mrs. Obama spoke from her East Wing office, in a session that was moderated by Jennifer Fields of AOL Health, and streamed at the newly revamped Let's Move! website, on AOL Health, and on the White House website. Thousands of people wrote in with questions for Mrs. Obama before the event, according to Fields, and more viewers had the opportunity to ask questions via Facebook during the event. The White House released the video, below, of the chat. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Fields during the chat)

In a wide-ranging conversation about the huge campaign, Mrs. Obama focused on sending a message of balance and moderation in all things relating to food, and described new components on the Let's Move! website, such as the Let's Cook series, which will feature White House chefs demo-cooking healthy, affordable meals, accompanied by guest chefs. Senior Policy Adviser For Healthy Food Initiatives and White House assistant chef Sam Kass stars in the first video of the series, joined by Atlanta chef Marvin Woods. She also talked about eating disorders, President Obama's food habits, the need for improving school meal programs, how to interact with the family pediatrician, and the need for parents to model healthy behavior for kids.

Avoiding eating disorders: Don't talk about weight
For the first time since launching Let's Move! last February, Mrs. Obama addressed the topic of eating disorders and childhood obesity. At 5:05 in the video, Fields reads Mrs. Obama a question submitted via e mail, in which the writer notes that she was made fun of as a child for being chubby, and wonders how a parent can speak with a child about losing weight without causing low self esteem.

"The flip side to obesity can be eating disorders," Mrs. Obama responds. "We certainly don't want to encourage the reverse trend. I'm particularly sensitive to this because I have two girls. So one of the things we try to do in our home is not really talk about weight. I try to make it a point not to spend a whole lot of time talking about weight or MY weight, for that matter."

Mrs. Obama adds, as she has said before, that the campaign is not about how kids look physically, but about how they feel, and about healthy.

"This isn't about vanity or ego, it's really about how our kids feel and it's about their health. So what I do with my kids is I talk about their health," Mrs. Obama says. "I don't talk about exercise for the sake of losing weight, I talk about it because I tell them that girls should learn how to compete, how to run and sweat and do the same things that boys do. So we talk about this in terms of an overall health picture."

Mrs. Obama adds that talking about her own weight with Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9 is off limits in the Obama household, too.

"One of the things I also try to do as a not spend a whole lot of time...with them seeing ME obsess about my weight," Mrs. Obama says. "My husband and I try to make a good healthy lifestyle just part of what we're doing...We try to talk little or not at all about actual weight."

Let them see you sweat...
Mrs. Obama notes that parents should encourage kids to find a spot they love, stressing that physical activity should be fin, not a chore. She adds that encouraging girls to be competitors on the sports field also gives them a sense of achievement, and adds that Malia and Sasha are well aware that each of the Obama parents has pursued a sport they love. She doesn't say which sports these are, but this blogger is assuming it's hoops for the President, and tennis for Mrs. Obama, who since last summer has been playing a lot of that game. Mrs. Obama has spoken about her daughters' love of soccer, and the Obamas have spent weekends at the girls' soccer games.

Fast food, sweet treats & President Obama
At 7:07 in the video, Field reads a submitted question: "We know President Obama has a love for fast food. How do you encourage your family to incorporate treats and still stay healthy?"

Mrs. Obama's answer debunks the longstanding myth that the President is the Obama family member most devoted to fast food.

"Our message is all about balance," Mrs. Obama says. "It's interesting that the president has a reputation for loving fast food, because I probably love it more than he does."

Mrs. Obama doesn't mention that the President's use of fast food for statecraft might be responsible for his perceived affection for fast food. President Obama took Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvdev to Ray's Hell Burger during a recent White House visit, and also sent French President Nicolas Sarkozy to DC's Ben's Chili Bowl, when he was visiting the White House in March.

"He tends to be pretty disciplined about his diet," Mrs. Obama says about the President's eating habits. "He doesn't like sweets, he loves vegetables, that's just sort of the natural thing that he loves."

The President does have a huge affection for pie, however; his nickname for White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses is The Crustmaster, thanks to Yosses' now-legendary pies. This is now widely known, thanks to the President--and Mrs. Obama--discussing it in interviews.

"One of the reasons he and I don't shy away from fast food AT ALL is because we want our kids to know that healthy eating is about finding a healthy balance," Mrs. Obama adds about the very public Obama fast food runs. "It's not about saying no forever to ice cream, french fries and the things people love, because no one could sustain that."

The First Lady adds that if an individual has a balanced diet "most of the time," sweets are fine.

"What we talk about is that those are special treats, and if you're eating well most of the time there's nothing wrong with having a piece of cake at a birthday party, there's nothing wrong with getting your popcorn at the movie if you're eating balanced meals the majority of the time," Mrs. Obama says.

When addressing the NAACP in Kansas City on Monday, Mrs. Obama told the civil rights organization that "dessert is not a right."

The First Lady adds that parents are "oftentimes the best and only" role models kids have, and that her own daughters "check her plate" to make sure she's eating her vegetables, especially when she's telling them to eat theirs.

Hollin Meadows School, a DC-area school that has sent kids to work in Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden, gets a shout out in the video, for its excellent school lunch program, school garden project that crosses the curriculum, good PE program, and it's achievement as part of the HealthierUS School Challenge, a USDA program that's a component of the Let's Move! campaign.

*White House photo by Samantha Appleton; White House video