June 20 2014
FLOTUS: Drawing the Wrong Lesson
In a recent interview with Healthy Living, First Lady Michelle Obama made a good point about how having great educational credentials doesn’t mean you get everything right.
Before coming to the White House, I struggled, as a working parent with a traveling, busy husband, to figure out how to feed my kids healthy, and I didn’t get it right. Our pediatrician had to pull me aside and point out some things that were going wrong. I thought to myself, if a Princeton and Harvard educated professional woman doesn’t know how to adequately feed her kids, then what are other parents going through who don’t have access to the information I have?
The point is everyone needs help and before becoming First Lady, Mrs. Obama got that help from a great source, a doctor. She wasn’t feeding her kids the healthiest stuff. One imagines that at one wellness visit or another the pediatrician urged Mrs. Obama to think about what her daughters were eating because it might be influencing their overall health and she did the right thing by listening to this common sense advice.
The problem with Mrs. Obama's way of explaining her campaign against obesity is that she has learned the wrong lessons from her own experiences. Instead of congratulating the pediatrician and extolling the virtues of regular wellness visits and building a trusting relationship with family physicians, she's decided the answer is to bring the government into what should otherwise remain every family’s issue.
Her tone is problematic. In another recent interview, Mrs. Obama made it sound as if she’s at war, declaring she will “fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our school." And she makes it sound like the schools are at odds with the parents, when she said that preserving the menus she designed is "critical" to support low-income students who might not have healthy options at home. But why would she assume that? She’s already admitted that she doesn’t have the corner on the market to know what kids should and shouldn’t eat.
"The best way to support them is to make sure we maintain strong nutrition standards," she said. Mrs. Obama seems to be suggesting that hers are the only menus to a healthy life. And yet, given the changing information about what foods are healthy and which aren’t, she can’t possibly know.
Parents can and do learn on their own to develop nutritional menus for their children, even if they don’t have degrees from ivy league schools. And given her own experiences, Mrs. Obama would do better to spend her time encouraging parents to make good menu decisions for themselves and their kids.