Michelle Obama criticized for obesity comments: Was she really out of line?

Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity as her cause from the White House.

With more than one-third of America’s kids falling into the category of obesity and as a mother of young children, it seems like the perfect issue for our First Lady.

However, she’s already being criticized for her efforts.  Here are the issues:

  1. Michelle Obama referred to own her daughters when talking about obesity.

From Shine: “Two weeks after announcing the unnerving news that childhood obesity has tripled over the last 30 years, and unveiling her own initiative to combat it, Michelle Obama has offended critics by discussing her own “wake-up” moment—when the family pediatrician told her that daughters Sasha and Malia were becoming overweight.”

“ ‘In my eyes I thought my children were perfect,” Mrs. Obama said at the January launch of her initiative. “I didn’t see the changes.’ ”

As someone who writes about her children often, I can understand the natural inclination to discuss your own children when talking about an issue. She was making the cause personal because it really had affected her family. They are not perfect and she’s saying to America even we are dealing with this problem. While using a personal experience is effective case making, was it hurtful to her girls to say that to the national media or are these critics seeing a problem where there is not one?

I read a story a few years back about mom bloggers and the privacy of their children. The point of the story was to be careful not writing something that would embarrass your child. When I started writing my kids were babies so there was very little that could embarrass them nor would they have known. But as they have grown, I had started viewing each mention of them through that lens. Would it embarrass them to know this fact about them is on the Web

2. The second criticism was about word choice Michelle used in speaking to her own children about maintaining a healthy weight. From Psychology Today:

“While her heart is in the right place, Michelle may not have considered or been familiar with the delicate balance between preventing obesity and triggering eating disorders. She mentioned that she put her children on a diet after her pediatrician and their father felt they were getting “chubby.” Words like “chubby” don’t cause eating disorders but they are often a trigger to disordered eating behavior. As an eating disorder professional, we would strongly caution parents from using labels or prerogative words to describe their child’s weight as this has lasting impacts on a child’s self esteem. Also, putting kids on “diet” instead of focusing on healthy eating and exercise can be another trigger for eating disorder behaviors. Dieting is clearly not the answer. And, weight alone is not an indicator of a child’s health. Children’s weights dramatically vary and change particularly as they go through development stages, growth spurts and puberty. Instead of aiming for slimness, let’s focus on a healthy lifestyle that includes mindful eating, access to healthy food and exercise.”

I think that in general many women are very worried about passing on eating issues that they have to their children so I think folks are particularly tuned into words like chubby.  But would that be a problem for all children? Would it depend on how it was said and how often or is just verboten?

So what do you think:

Is Michelle Obama being unfairly criticized for using her children as national examples in a family having to change some habit at home to prevent becoming overweight?

Does her word choices of chubby or diet bother you? Do you think they actually bothered her kids?

Are you personally worried about passing on eating issues to your children, particularly daughters? Are you extra careful in how your refer to and monitor your children’s eating?

195 comments Add your comment

Maria

February 5th, 2010
12:47 pm

OMG! Give me a break people. Of course she is being unfairly criticized. Some people just won’t be happy no matter what she says. Tell the critics to find something and someone else to complain about.

ray

February 5th, 2010
12:54 pm

I’m offended by the whole thing. Why has she suddenly become the food police and the parenting police all at once? Why has her husband become the go to school and study hard police? Quit trying to raise our kids for us.
Is is 2012 yet?

T. Higgins

February 5th, 2010
12:59 pm

For goodness sake, leave the woman alone. I did not vote for Obama, but I think Michelle is really trying to be an asset to our country as the First Lady. People just look for something to gripe about. Poor Michelle gets critized for anything she does. I think she is doing a great job and she always reminds people that her children are her first priority. Wonder how many people think about the deadbeat parents in today’s society!

JJ, re: the meat market, that's a great...

February 5th, 2010
1:00 pm

…way to save time – but I must admit it is not cost effective. But, as we have heard on this blog many times from one dear friend , “to each his own”!

s

February 5th, 2010
1:02 pm

“RE: Food Inc – anything from Michael Moore is typically a one-sided story.”

Thats all well and good except that Micheal Moore did not have anything to do with the film “Food Inc”.

All I am saying is that everyone should watch it.

nowayoutta here

February 5th, 2010
1:03 pm

Tis Tis Tis…Can we all find the right stuff to focus on!!!! I have over 25 nieces and nephews and the majority of them need to understand that some changes need to be made in their personal eating habits. (I too am in that boat!) For the first lady to say the DIET word should not be a cause for alarm what should be stressed is the fact that the other word taken out of schools …PE. You see we all tend to focus on the effect of everything, the war, the economy, the condition of our kids and we have short term memories we FORGET the causes.
I recall growing up and playing in School…
1. Dodge ball… We cannot do that any more little Timmy might have his self esteem impacted.
2. Kick ball… We cannot do that any more cause little Mary may not be able to make it so 1st base.
3. Red rover… That’s out; Mike is not fast or strong enough to break through the lines.
4. Duck Duck goose… NOT we might offend P.E.T.A or some Vegans of the World.
5. Softball… NOPE the kids cannot hit the big round orb and might cause them to think they are failures on other parts of their life.
In an attempt to shield our kids from the THINGS we learned on the Playground, have successfully MADE them SOFT! Soft in the middle and soft when it comes to dealing with LIFE. We are our own worst enemies. Mentioning something to a person once causes an eating disorder is similar to saying that one Buffet meal WILL make you FAT! More cause to get that the effect.
Finally- the highlight of our Youth was the Annual Field Day where we celebrated fitness. I recall the spelling B champion winning the soft ball throw… Way to go Brad. I recall top honor kids winning the three legged race – Beth and Melissa! I also recall a future captain of industry winning the 100 yard dash… way to go Jay
But the one Thing I cannot recall was WHO was the Fat Kid…. focus on the Cause

luckydog

February 5th, 2010
1:04 pm

Don’t talk about those phat girlz.

FCM

February 5th, 2010
1:04 pm

“If they really want to slow obesity then start by controlling what can be purchased by federally administered food stamps. They need to stop the ability to purchase any high-fat foods.” Don’t know about that but they could certainly take a look in the SCHOOL LUNCH MENU! High sodium and fat.

Our ES allows them to chose from 3 lunches:

2/1 – Spagetti, Chicken Tenders, Yogurt Sack
2/2 – Turkey with Rice, Hot Dog, Turkey Chef
2/3 – Grill Cheese & Soup, Tacos, Turkey Wrap
2/4 – Baked Chicken, Pizza, Chicken Tender Salad
2/5 – Shrimp Poppers w/Mac & Cheese, BBQ Pork, Pizza Pack

Breakfast:
2/1 Sausage Biscuit
2/2 Ham & Cheese Biscuit
2/3 Chicken Biscuit
2/4 Waffles
2/5 Pancakes

s

February 5th, 2010
1:06 pm

“The childhood obesity epidemic is an entirely statistically manufactured myth.”

http://www.peopleofwalmart.com

Becky

February 5th, 2010
1:19 pm

@KRW..I agree about food stamp purchases..I have niece that lives in KY. and her boyfriend can go to the store and buy energy drinks..HELLO..She can also order pizza and pay for it with her food stamp card..I just think this is so wrong in so many ways..

Chip Van Distenkamp

February 5th, 2010
1:20 pm

This is the last straw – the Obama’s must resign immediately.

C.A.

February 5th, 2010
1:22 pm

The President and 1st lady have been criticized from the day they stepped foot into the White House, so it is not surprising. Childhood Obesity is a great issue. I have 2 daughters the same age as the 1st kids and coincidentally my daughter just completed a Social Studies Project on this topic. We need to bring awareness to this epidemic. Even though my kids are no where near obese, I would have not used my kids as examples. Kids are very sensitive at this age and it can damage their self-esteem. Any issues that the 1st lady may have with their weight or health need to be left in their household. However, I’m behind you 100% for the cause!

ATL

February 5th, 2010
1:23 pm

Thank You Mrs. Obama, we need to wake up and look at our kids, yes we have a whole lot of over weight children today. I think we all need to learn how to cook more healthy for our children and ourselves. Fastfood is not the way we should feed our kids.

BamaGurl

February 5th, 2010
1:24 pm

My,my aren’t we prejudice. I have never seen so many racist people as I have when it comes to blogging. Yes, our kids are fat, obese, out-of-shape whatever you want to call it. Stop being haters and let’s get with the program. Would it have sounded better coming from Barbara Bush, who thought that the Katrina victims were living better in the Dome than they had been before the hurricane, or Sarah Palin who COULD sit on her front porch and look at Russia, or the ex-Hawks player who thought that condoms would help the Haitian situation. You all sound like a bunch of prejudice fools with your fat, obese, out-of-shape children!!!!!!!!!!! Fat doesn’t care about the color of the skin, just do something about it. If I were Michelle, I really wouldn’t care if your fat a** children couldn’t come in the door with such stupid, racist mammies and pappies as ya’ll.

Brian

February 5th, 2010
1:26 pm

I blame George Bush for this even being an issue.

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
1:32 pm

We have a Preisdent about to bankrupt our nation and his fat kids are the issue? Who cares? Let them stuff their faces with pizza and ice cream for all I care.

Brian

February 5th, 2010
1:34 pm

Amen AuburnTigers

Fit or Fat?

February 5th, 2010
1:34 pm

Good for her for speaking the truth: America is too fat. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s best to speak openly about it and avoid dancing around the issue.

Angry Moderate

February 5th, 2010
1:39 pm

If there’s any criticism that should be levied, it’s towards the hyperprotective parents who are worried about offending our children’s precious self-esteem. Newsflash: even if you are careful not to call your kids fat or chubby, their peers on the playground aren’t going to have any qualms about doing so. Kids are like that.

It’s too bad Laura Bush never called her daughters “drunken floozies” in a public venue.

BamaGurl

February 5th, 2010
1:43 pm

To AuburnTigers, yo, the country was bankrupt when our present President took office. I know you get the newspaper in Auburn, Ala. Remember George Bush the “C” student from an Ivy League school who said that the economy had a “hang over”. Come on people, after George and his brother STOLE the presidency and lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction he went on a “I’m gonna leave em crying and broke”! We were screwed when President Obama took office! At least he was elected and the “chads weren’t pregnant”. Go to the library, NO RUN to the library and check out a history book and read it. Stop rooting so much for the Tigers and root for your country! DUMMIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Angry Moderate

February 5th, 2010
1:44 pm

BamaGurl: “Prejudice” is a noun. “Prejudiced” is the word you want. Way to reinforce the stereotypes.

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
1:47 pm

The country was bankrupt when he took office – so he decided to triple the deficit in the first year! And increase that deficit by another $1,000,000,000,000 in 2010! Sounds like a smart thing to do. George Bush made a “C” at an Ivy League school – what were Obama’s grades?

K

February 5th, 2010
1:48 pm

I understand her wanting to personalize the situation, however, she may have accidently labeled her kids chubby or fat. The children now think their mother thinks less of them or what happens if they grow up to be obese? Well you have always been chubby. I do not allow people to call my dogs fat. It’s derogatory regardless. I have been skinny all my life. It’s giving me a complex. Why can’t I gain some weight? I gain some weight and then people point it out and add but it looks good. So I was to thin to begin with and now I feel fat because of words. See how easy it is to inadvertently cause a eating disorder?

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
1:51 pm

BamaGurl, don’t go looking for Obama’s grades or transcripts. He won’t release them. I wonder why? Maybe quotes like this will let you know how bright he is:

“I’ve been in 57 states, with I think one left to go.”

RJ

February 5th, 2010
1:52 pm

@JJ, please post pics of you and your family so we can critique. Promise I’ll be honest! It’s easy to hide behind a blog and pass judgement. I’m absolutely, positively sure you’re no Halle Berry look alike. Geesh!

SRH

February 5th, 2010
1:54 pm

@auburntigers: At Harvard Law School, Obama graduated Magna Cum Laude, which, according to the Havard Law School website, is awarded to the top 10% of Harvard Law School students. Michelle Obama graduated cum laude from Princeton. Then she attended and graduated from Harvard University School of Law. You may not like them, but they are much smarter than most.

Dr. Oz Child rearing expert

February 5th, 2010
1:56 pm

Let’s face it, obesity leads to many other health disorders. Why shouldn’t Ms. Obama (or any mother) be concerned with their childrens weight and eating habits. It’s not like she was spouting off Yo Momma so fat…jokes.

FCM

February 5th, 2010
1:58 pm

OFF TOPIC IN WTH NEWS:

“A New York City junior high student has been arrested for doodling on her desk with a marker.

More Nation & World stories »
Army curtails plan to cut spending for world bases
Plane panel falls outside Miami mall; no one hurt
Police: Boy found dead in luxury Manhattan hotel
‘Visionary’ ex-Miss. Choctaw chief Martin dies
Disaster in Haiti
Health Care Reform: News and resources
Top news around the Web
Twelve-year-old Alexa Gonzalez scribbled “Lex was here 2/1/10″ on her desk Monday at Junior High School 190 in Queens. She also wrote “I love my friends Abby and Faith.” The girl says the doodles could have been erased.” (AJC article)

Whatever happened to detention and making kids clean all the desks in the room, the grade or whatever????? Seriously they arrested a kid for this BS?

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
1:59 pm

SRH: I wouldn’t call someone who claimes the U.S. has 57 states (with one more to go) as being “much smarter than most.” My 5-year old nephew knows how many states are in the U.S.!

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
2:02 pm

BamaGurl – here’s the Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures. By the way, Obama QUADRUPLED the deficit with his “Stimulus” package.

http://blog.heritage.org/2009/03/24/bush-deficit-vs-obama-deficit-in-pictures/

new mom

February 5th, 2010
2:04 pm

Catlady, I highly recommend ‘Maternal Gynerations’ in Lawrenceville. We used an OB for the birth of our first daughter, and a midwife for our second. Both experiences were wonderful, every staff member is so compassionate, I could go on and on. They use Gwinnett Medical Center’s woman’s pavillion, which we also loved. They are located off of Old Norcross Rd. And if she’s in the market for a pediatrician, I’d also recommend PAL (pediatric associates of lawrenceville) They are fantastic!!!

TTL

February 5th, 2010
2:04 pm

If all parents were concerned about obesity and would adjust diet appropriately, there would be no obese children. No one wants to call it, but i think obesity is child abuse. How would you otherwise classify a parent who lets 10 year old drink a case of soda a day and feeds a child only cereal, frozen food and ice cream.

penguinmom

February 5th, 2010
2:04 pm

I don’t think her comments were out of line. I do think we need to focus more on getting kids active than on what they eat. One of the biggest problems is that kids today sit too much. They aren’t allowed outside because we are all scared of letting them out of our sight. They don’t have rigorous PE at school. They tend to spend their free time sitting and playing video games or sitting and typing on the computer.
I don’t remember being inside during my childhood except when it was raining outside. I ran, climbed trees, climbed on the monkey bars, just was active in general.
(I say all of this sitting here at my computer as I have been all morning. Perhaps our kids are just imitating adults who are on FB all the time.)

Kute

February 5th, 2010
2:06 pm

I would like to have a conversation with the daughters of those that oppose Michelle’s stance on the overweight issue. Probably well on their way to growing up just like their mothers.

Power to Michelle. I am becoming depressed by all of the so called intelligent adults who take no stance on this very important issue. Pick up pen and save a kid from obesity will you.

FCM

February 5th, 2010
2:12 pm

TTL I am not agreeing to the child abuse part of your email. But your right about parents being the ones who watch what the kids eat. I know one child who’s almost every meal is strach and fried. (Spagetti, Pizza, Burgers, Nuggets or my favorite mac & cheese with fries). Mom gives the child “treats” from the Quickie Mart or Grocery on the way home from school each day…Usually Skittles, Twinkies, Cookies, or the like. Often a soda as well. The kid is active too, in sports and so forth. Mom wants to know why kid outweighs either of mine. Um, because mine actually eat healthy foods, we limit the sweets and soda is a HUGE no (yes they have it sometimes). I insist on broccoli, fruit, or other good choices. My kids will sneak Oreo’s if they are in the house though. That and Reese’s.

Corey

February 5th, 2010
2:13 pm

Auburn Tiger, it’s a known fact Mr. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. You do know what magna cum laude is, don’t you?

AuburnTigers

February 5th, 2010
2:14 pm

Yes, I know what magna cum laude is. I also know how many states there are, unlike Obama!

TTL

February 5th, 2010
2:14 pm

@ penguinmom – focusing on activities would not work. Many obese kids consume 4,000 – 10,000 calories a day. No amount of exercise can burn those extra calories.

TTL

February 5th, 2010
2:19 pm

FCM – i only think this way because if parents under-nourish their child, child services get involved and parents are deemed to be not suited to raise a child. So if kid is 300 lb at age of 10 i think it is appropriate to conclude that parents are abusing the child.

LydiasDad

February 5th, 2010
2:20 pm

For the first time, I applaud Michelle Obama for her comments. She should stay away from politics and push forward with this issue. Way too many “chubby” kids in Wal-Mart these days. And it seems the “chubbiness” is more prevalent among Hispanics (especially illegals). Any stats behind that?

JATL

February 5th, 2010
2:21 pm

I applaud her for taking this on as her “cause”. It’s EXTREMELY important for parents to look at their children’s nutrition and exercise. Take a look around -there are lots of chubby and fat kids out there, and regardless of self-esteem issues, being made fun of, etc., it’s so unhealthy! I’ve always had to watch my weight -sometimes winning, sometimes losing -but my mother really tried to instill good nutritionally sound eating and the importance of exercise. People getting riled up over what she said need something to do.

catlady

February 5th, 2010
2:21 pm

Thank you, New Mom! She uses PAL already, and MG is the group she hopes to get in with. Apparently you can be “rejected”!

yeahno

February 5th, 2010
2:25 pm

In all honesty, I’m betting that those girls didn’t even hear their mom’s speech until it became an issue. They have so many things like that going on around them, I’m sure they don’t pay that much attention. Now that it has become an issue of what their mom said, now it will become an issue possibly for the oldest child, but only because she will be a little embarrassed for a day or two, and then she’ll get over it. The media is stupid, and its apparently a slow news day.

melissai

February 5th, 2010
2:27 pm

I think she is being criticized for a poor choice of word/s. I’m sure when she said diet she meant that they will be making better dietary choices, healthier choices. One thing to remember, I have seen MANY young people, myself included, go through a chubby stage while going through the hormonal changes from childhood to my teens. The Obama children, especially the oldest, is hitting this stage – her body is changing. She can be eating right and exercising and still “look” chubby when she is perfectly healthy.

As a child, I didn’t have video games and 400 t.v. channels to compete for my “free” time. I spent my days outside from sun up to sun down in the summer and hit the door as soon as I was done with homework in the school year. My cousins and I played kickball, baseball, volleyball, badmitton, tetherball – and traipsed through my grandmother’s 400 acres. We didn’t snack on convenience foods either. A Little Debbie snack cake was a special treat. We had home cooked meals every night. The factors have changed so much in the last 25 years it is no wonder we have an obesity trend among our young people. And one last thing, back then we didn’t have all of the waif model advertising to give body dismorphic disorder. Today kids can’t get away from it – it’s on every magazine at the grocery store, every channel, every web page that has advertising on the side. There is where the eating disorders start…with thinking they should be more like them.

JJ

February 5th, 2010
2:28 pm

RJ get off it!!!! I’m not passing judgment. I’m merely making an OBSERVATION. Are you aware of what that is?

I can SEE things without making judgment calls. I saw three FAT kids. I didn’t judge them. I saw them.

motherjanegoose

February 5th, 2010
2:28 pm

Just in from ranting for 90 minutes with DB over lunch and we had fun!

Whew…this is not on topic at all :) but being one who is inclined to share various things that pop into my mind

@catlady, I just read your post and have not read the others.

I LOVE DR. JENNIFER AQUA on Pleasant Hill in Lilburn….the office is right off of Burns Road. I live off of Lawrenceville Suwanee but go to her for my annual check up. I started with Dr. Mark Davis ( retired) and now use Dr. Aqua. She is a wonderful person and I would recommend her. She did NOT deliver my daughter, that was the Doctor who I detested as my daughter ended up with Erb’s Palsy ( I have shared about this before) . That Doctor is still practicing in this area.
Hope it is not the one your daughter is using. T has my e-mail if you need to reach me.

Now, I will go back to reading the other posts.

JATL

February 5th, 2010
2:34 pm

MJG -DR. JENNIFER AQUA IS FANTASTIC!!!! I see her at the Decatur practice, and I was really hoping she would deliver at least one of my babies, but she wasn’t on call either time! She did my last amnio and I saw her a lot during both pregnancies. She’s got a great demeanor and is very competent. I can’t recommend her enough! Not sure what they call the practice out there, but in Decatur it’s Atlanta Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Becky

February 5th, 2010
2:37 pm

Not sure who said it, but how do you think that Michelle Obama is fat? If you call that fat, half of the world must be really, really obese..

3 Squares

February 5th, 2010
2:37 pm

Remember, the Subway spokesman lost 369 pounds on the all-hoagie diet. (Seinfeld).

The point is that we have a lot to learn about nutrition. They’re coming out with a fat pill, or a skinny pill….if you take this pill you will lose weight, okay?

They’re also coming out with an old pill, or a youth pill….if you take this pill you’ll stay young, okay?

They’re talking about a stupid pill, or a smart pill….if you take this pill you’ll be smarter than a fifth grader, okay?

They already have a sad pill, or a happy pill….when you take this pill you wont be depressed, okay?

They have pills for everything except ED. If only they could invent some chemical or drug that would help older, fat, depressed morons find love……

BamaGurl

February 5th, 2010
2:41 pm

To Angry Moderate, WHATEVER!!!!!!!!!! To AuburnTigers leave the sheep alone! You know what I mean. Blah, Blah, Blah. It is what it is!!!! Like I SAID, go read a book! Or go back in the pasture to your sheep!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve heard what you do to farm animals!