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Success of First Lady's 'Get Fit' Campaign after 4 years prompts new initiatives

First Lady Michelle Obama, at 2012 Democratic National Convention, deserves credit for the success of her "Let's Move" and "Get Fit" campaigns in inspiring healthier eating and exercise, contributing to lower obesity rates.
First Lady Michelle Obama, at 2012 Democratic National Convention, deserves credit for the success of her "Let's Move" and "Get Fit" campaigns in inspiring healthier eating and exercise, contributing to lower obesity rates.
© 2014 Karen Rubin/

I find it ironic, hypocritical and all too familiar that the "vaginal probe" crowd are howling about Big Brother encouraging healthy eating and exercise to reduce obesity, especially in children when the fate of people in contracting diabetes and other debilitating (and costly) diseases is set.

Instead of cheering the extraordinary finding that obesity rates among 2-5 year olds have fallen by 43% (!!!!), while obesity rates that have been rising at a consistent (and frightening rate) among the general population have leveled off, they are blasting First Lady Michelle Obama, as she marks the fourth anniversary of her Get Fit campaign.

How dare she (as the stand in for Uncle Sugar) encourage healthy eating, home vegetable gardens, Getting Fit!

How dare the government push back at crap being fed to children in our schools, or now, dare to push back at $150 million in advertising for sugary drinks that school districts, desperate for money, sell out for on school athletic fields and in their buildings.

Conservatives are horrified. horrified, because they say that adults should be able to make their own decisions about what they feed their children.

Funny they don't feel a woman is capable of making her own decisions for her health or her future, who have de-humanized a pregnant woman as being merely a "host", as Virginia State Senator Steve Martin (R) wrote: "once a child does exist in your womb, I'm not going to assume a right to kill it just because the child's host (some refer to them as mothers) doesn't want it."

But Big Brother hasn't really laid down any edicts at all.

Going back to the first days of this administration. Michelle Obama has cajoled and convinced private companies - the fast food corporations, for example - to ease back on fat and salt so that their patrons will be weaned away from desiring so much unnecessary flavoring.

And she has raised awareness in the importance of exercise at a time when public schools, forced under budgetary pressure and teach-to-the-test time constraints to give up gym and extracurricular sports, and probably causing school districts to rethink their priorities. Indeed, at pre-schools, there is much more exercise going on, thanks to the First Lady's example and encouragement.

And this week, the First Lady's fitness campaign has inspired Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) to announce a five-year commitment by BGCA and NRPA to create healthy environments for children who attend out-of-school programming across the country. BGCA and NRPA will provide 5 million children with healthy snacks and physical activity during the critical few hours between when kids leave school and before they go home. "Parents can now rest assured that the work they are doing at home to keep their kids healthy will be reinforced in those after-school hours."

“Because of this new announcement from the Boys and Girls Clubs and the National Recreation and Park Association, millions of kids will be in healthy environments not just during the school day, but during those critical hours after school as well. Kids will be getting a fruit or a vegetable at every meal and every snack, they’ll have healthy beverages like water and low-fat milk and they’ll be getting active for at least 30 minutes a day,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “This is going to make a huge impact—not just on our kids’ health, but on their success in school and in life.”

When the NRPA and BGCA commitments are combined with a November 2011 commitment by YMCA of the USA to implement healthy guidelines, more than 5.5 million children will be impacted by healthier programming, demonstrating that we are truly moving toward a new, healthier norm in out-of-school programs.

And none of this is "Big Brother."

In fact, for those who scream that parents should be in control of what their kids eat, they don't have control of what they are given to eat at school where many children depend on getting nutrition. Others make decisions on what is fed to children - possibly because the items are cheap or surplus or because some lobbyist has succeeded in winning a purchase contract for their client.

Remember how President Reagan declared "ketchup" a vegetable?

Many children depend on the meals they get from school as the main source of their nutrition - and nutrition is vital to a child's ability to learn and succeed in school - which is why these Right Wingnuts should be all the more ashamed of shaming children whose family had run short on payment, and publicly pulled away their school lunch and tossed it out in front of them. That is cruelty and abuse and yet another example of "love the fetus, hate the child" immoral mentality.

The bulk of Mrs. Obama's campaign against obesity has been to work with the private sector to encourage healthier guidelines and to encourage public entities to also adopt healthier foods and activity.

"And really that’s been the story of Let’s Move from the beginning. We’ve seen that change is contagious, and it adds up quickly. And today, after just four years, healthy habits are now becoming the new norm in so many parts of our lives," she said at a Let's Move! After-school Event at the Gwen Cherry Recreation Center in Miami, Florida, on Feb 25.

"Just think of all the changes we’ve seen. Restaurants are investing millions of marketing dollars to promote low-calorie menus. Food companies are cutting sugar, salt, and fat from their products. Child care centers are offering healthy snacks and meals, and instead of plopping little ones in front of the TV, they’re making sure they’re playing and running around. And soon, millions more kids will be attending healthy after-school programs every single day.

"And make no mistake about it, all of this is starting to have a positive effect. Listen to this -- today, the CDC announced that obesity rates among young children have dropped to 8.4 percent. That’s the lowest rate we have seen in a very long time. (Applause.)

"So we’re beginning to make some real progress. And none of this happened by accident. It happened because of people like you, because people like you were willing to take a stand for America’s families and communities. And I know that this kind of work is happening all across the country.

"And I wish I could personally visit every school and after-school program, or go to every community in America to see all the changes that are happening, but that’s not humanly possible. (Laughter.) So instead, here’s the thing: to the millions of you who are out there every day working to create healthier communities for our kids, I am asking you to show me how you move. It’s a little bit of a challenge. I want to hear from everyone. I want to hear from schools and daycare centers, and households. I want to see what after-school programs are doing all across the country. I want to see those new snacks you’re serving, the fun games you’re playing, and the gardens you’re growing.

The Rightwingers may howl about Big Brother (or Uncle Sugar) interceding and preventing parents from stuffing their kids with Big Gulp sodas and fatty foods, but kids today get much of their nutrition at school, and it is a crime, really, for schools to be complicit in feeding kids junk food because it is cheap, or because lobbyists win government contracts for their clients. And the rest of us pay for it - billions of dollars in health care and disability for people who have contracted heart disease, diabetes or who are debilitated by their obesity. Certainly these people are not as productive as they could be in society. We all pay for that.

As Mrs. Obama said, "So this is critical for our kids’ future and it’s also critical for the future of our country, -- because healthy and well-educated kids are more likely to become healthy, well-educated adults who will build a productive workforce and a vibrant economy for generations to come."

Earlier in the day, at an event in the East Room of the White House to announce Let's Move! School Wellness Standards: eliminating advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages in schools and expanding the school breakfast program to reach 9 million kids in 22,000 schools.

"As you all remember, back when we first launched Let's Move this whole healthy eating thing was still kind of a novelty. Back then, if a school grew a garden or installed a salad bar, if a fast food restaurant started selling a healthy item or a business offered employees incentives to exercise more, that was a big deal. Some folks even warned me that taking on childhood obesity might be controversial. They thought kids and parents should deal with these issues privately. Others laughed it off as not a real issue at all.

"Well, four years later, that all seems like ancient history. Today, big chain restaurants have whole menus of healthy choices. Entire organizations are working to plant school gardens. And water just surpassed soda as the most commonly consumed beverage in America. Yay! Go, water. Drink up. (Applause.)

"And today, folks are really starting to think about what they eat and how active they are, so they’re scrutinizing labels; they’re asking questions; they’re changing what they feed their families. And just as we no longer smoke or drink when we’re pregnant, just as we no longer let our kids ride their bikes without a helmet or sit in the backseat of the car without a car seat, today, we know that we can no longer let our kids eat whatever they want, because now we know better. Now we’ve seen the devastating effects that poor nutrition has on their health.

"And this new approach to eating and activity is not just a fad, and it’s no longer just a movement. Instead, here in America, healthy habits are becoming the new norm. And nowhere is that more clear than in our schools, which have been a core focus of Let's Move right from the very beginning.

"See, Let's Move is based on a very simple idea that parents should be in control of their kids’ health. And their good efforts at home shouldn’t be undermined when they send their kids off to school. Parents have a right to expect that during the school day, their kids will have food that meets basic nutrition standards, and they’ll have a chance to maybe move around a little bit while they’re there, too.

"And that’s why we launched Let’s Move Active Schools. And today, more than 6,500 schools are bringing physical activity back into the classrooms. And because of the child nutrition bill we passed back in 2010, today nearly 90 percent of our schools -- 90 percent of them -- have already implemented new school lunch standards.

"With the hard work of so many administrators and chefs, nutrition professionals and others, these schools have literally transformed their menus. They’re serving more fruits and veggies, more whole grains and more lean protein. And starting next fall, they’ll be offering only healthy snacks and beverages in their vending machines as well.

"So this is a big deal. And so far, these changes have been a resounding success. In fact, in a number of American school districts -- places like Dallas, Orlando, Cincinnati -- although they’re not charging any more for their lunches, they’re actually making more money because more kids are participating in the school lunch programs.

"So we’re making some real strides in our schools. And that's why I’m thrilled to continue this progress with two very important announcements we’re making today.

"The first is that we’re issuing new school wellness guidelines to help build healthier learning environments for our kids. And as part of this effort, we’ll be eliminating advertisements for unhealthy food and beverages in our schools. Because I think we can all agree that our classrooms should be healthy places where kids are not bombarded with ads for junk food.

"And these new marketing guidelines are actually part of a broader effort to inspire companies to rethink how they market food to kids in general. Because the fact is, today, the average child watches thousands of food advertisements each year, and 86 percent of these ads are for products loaded with sugar, fat or salt. And, by contrast, our kids see an average of just one ad a week for healthy products like water, fruits and vegetables. Just one. So that’s why we convened the first ever White House Summit on food marketing to children, where I urged businesses to stop marketing unhealthy foods to our kids and do more to get kids excited about healthy foods. And that same principle should apply to our schools.

"Our second announcement today focuses on school breakfast, and I cannot possibly overstate how important this is, because right now, millions of children in this country are showing up for school hungry every day. And too many kids aren’t eating breakfast even when it’s provided because they feel like there’s a stigma with participating in the school breakfast program. And this is happening here in the wealthiest country on Earth, and it’s intolerable.

"And that’s why we’re expanding our school breakfast program, ensuring that nearly 9 million kids in 22,000 schools start their day with a nutritious breakfast. And as you all know, this doesn’t just affect their health, it affects their performance in school. In fact, a recent study showed that kids who eat a healthy breakfast perform 17.5 percent better on math tests, and they have fewer disciplinary problems.

"So this is critical for our kids’ future and it’s also critical for the future of our country -- because healthy and well-educated kids are more likely to become healthy, well-educated adults who will build a productive workforce and a vibrant economy for generations to come.

"So with these two announcements today, and the initiatives we’ve launched these past four years, we are well on our way to building healthier schools for all of our children. And I want us just to take a moment to really think about what this will mean for our kids in the years ahead. Children born today will be accustomed to eating healthy food during the school day. So, for them, the norm will be fruits and vegetables, and not chips and candy. And instead of sitting endlessly at their desks with no breaks, the norm will be kids up and moving throughout the day -- in gym, in recess, and during breaks in between lessons.

"And to the extent these kids are seeing advertisements, those ads will be for healthy products. So, hopefully, at the grocery store, they’ll be begging us for items from the produce aisle rather than the snack food aisle, because that’s what they’re seeing on TV. And if we keep coming together and working together, all of this will be the new norm for our kids here in this country. For our youngest kids, this might be all they’ll ever know, and these changes will shape their habits and tastes for the rest of their lives, including what they buy and feed their own kids in the years to come.

"So if there’s anyone out there who was thinking to themselves, in a few years this lady will be gone -- (laughter) -- and this whole Let’s Move thing will finally be over so we can go back to business as usual -- if you know anyone out there who might be thinking that way, you might want to remind them that I didn’t create this issue and I’m not the one who is truly driving it forward. All of you are.

"And that’s really my message to all of you today: Keep on doing what you’re doing -- because with every healthy choice you make in the grocery store or at a restaurant, you’re making a statement about the food you want for your kids. And while your kids might grumble at first when you serve them this food, you know that if you stand firm, they’ll adjust. That’s our job as parents -– to hold steady through the whining. (Laughter.) We do that all the time. /

"No child wants to brush their teeth or go to the doctor for shots, but we make them do those things anyway because these are the norms for keeping our kids healthy. And healthy eating and physical activity are really no different. These are becoming the new norms for raising healthy kids. So we need to keep it up. We need to keep on coming up with new ideas to get kids excited about healthy habits, particularly in our schools."

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
© 2014 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to or email 'Like' us on

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