Michelle on a Mission

Article excerpt

Byline: Michelle Obama

How we can empower parents, schools, and the community to battle childhood obesity.

For years, we've known about the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. We've heard the statistics--how one third of all kids in this country are either overweight or obese. We've seen the effects on how our kids feel, and how they feel about themselves. And we know the risks to their health and to our economy--the billions of dollars we spend each year treating obesity-related conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

But we also know that it wasn't always like this. Back when many of us were growing up, we led lives that kept most of us at a pretty healthy weight. We walked to school every day, ran around at recess and gym and for hours before dinner, and ate home-cooked meals that always seemed to have a vegetable on the plate.

For many kids today, those walks to school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Afternoons playing outside have been replaced with afternoons inside with TV, videogames, and the Internet. And with many parents working longer hours, or multiple jobs, they don't have time for family meals around the table anymore.

It's now clear that between the pressures of today's economy and the breakneck pace of modern life, the well-being of our kids has too often gotten lost in the shuffle.

And let's be honest with ourselves: our kids didn't do this to themselves. Our kids don't decide what's served in the school cafeteria or whether there's time for gym class or recess. Our kids don't choose to make food products with tons of sugar and sodium in supersize portions, and then have those products marketed to them everywhere they turn. And no matter how much they beg for fast food and candy, our kids shouldn't be the ones calling the shots at dinnertime. We're in charge. We make these decisions.

That's actually the good news--that we can decide to solve this problem. That's why we started Let's Move, a nationwide campaign with a single goal: to solve the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that children born today can reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

Let's Move is not about trying to turn back the clock to when we were kids, or cooking five-course meals from scratch every night. No one has time for that. And it's not about saying no to everything either. There's a place for cookies and ice cream, burgers and fries--that's part of the fun of childhood.

Instead, Let's Move is about families making manageable changes that fit with their schedules, their budgets, and their needs and tastes. …