The Ticket

Michelle Obama: Obesity fight is ‘generational’ campaign

Olivier Knox, Yahoo News
The Ticket

What dishes would first lady Michelle Obama like to magically turn into guilt-free health foods? What’s her personal fitness regimen? What does she think of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial restrictions on big sodas? And why are the Obamas “a broccoli household”?

The first lady answered those questions and more about fitness in an interview with Yahoo News, where she warned of a “generational” battle against obesity.

Michelle Obama was in her hometown of Chicago to unveil a new initiative to boost exercise in schools as part of her signature “Let’s Move” campaign to get Americans off the couch.

“It’s starting with our kids. And this is an unprecedented collaboration to get kids more active through the school day,” she told Yahoo. “A large percentage of schools do not have daily physical activity, a lot of schools have had to eliminate recess.”

As a result, kids who need “at least 60 minutes” per day of active play are nowhere near that, the first lady said.

The new plan, promoted at LetsMoveSchools.org, aims to engage 50,000 schools over the next five years in collaboration with corporate partners like NIKE, which is making a $50 million investment in the effort.

When it comes to personal fitness and nutrition, the first lady leads by example.

“I exercise every single day for at least an hour a day – but you don’t have to do that,” she said. “I lift weights, I run, do the elliptical, I do push-ups I do sit-ups but I also sometimes do some boxing, and kick-boxing, I do some yoga.”

Obama said she gets “bored” if she doesn’t vary her routine. “I’m just like a kid, it’s got to be fun.”

What about vegetables?

“We are a big broccoli household. It is the one vegetable that my children will eat without creating chaos and havoc,” she said. “There’s never quite clear harmony at the dinner table over the vegetables, but broccoli is a unifier in our household.”

Parents who want to get more involved in their kids’ fitness should be “making demands” on their schools to do more exercise – but they shouldn’t hesitate to make working out at home a personal, even goofy affair.

“You don’t have to be an athlete,” she said. Get up and dance with your kids “even if they’re embarrassed.”

Three years after the launch of Let's Move, is America winning the fight against obesity?

“We’re moving in the right direction, but the goal of Let’s Move is generational,” she said. “We want your son, by the time he’s going into college, to really have a different health sort of perspective on life, that he knows that fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of life, so that a bag of chips and a diet Coke are not his breakfast.”

“We can’t measure things right now, but we have to keep plodding ahead,” she said. Obama cited support from high-profile firms like Walmart, Disney, and Nike but underlined that “we need every restaurant, we need every grocery store, manufacturer, we need every food producer, we need every business to invest in some way in a school to get kids active.”

What about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s restrictions on large-size sodas? Will it work?

“There is no one-size fits all solution to this problem,” she said. “I think the mayor of New York is going to see how it works, and I think other cities can look on and see that as an option and figure out whether that’s something that works for them.”

She exercises daily, she eats her vegetables, she disapproves of reporters' vending-machine breakfasts – but what foods would Michelle Obama like to magically turn into guilt-free health foods?

“There are many dishes that I would magically turn,” she said.

“If French fries were a healthy food, if macaroni and cheese – macaroni and cheese can be a healthier food, but you know, the good old-fashioned creamy, cheesy, heavy macaroni, if that could be a healthy food, if pie could be a healthy food – I could go on – a hamburger and good juicy burger covered, smothered in cheese.”

“This is isn’t good, why are you doing this to me?” she said with a laugh.

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