Michelle Obama credited her signature “Let’s Move” campaign–which encourages healthy eating and exercise–for helping to decrease childhood obesity rates in the U.S. The first lady spoke on Tuesday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 19 states and territories saw obesity rates among low-income preschoolers decline.
“Today’s announcement reaffirms my belief that together, we are making a real difference in helping kids across the country get a healthier start to life,” the first lady said in a statement. “We know how essential it is to set our youngest children on a path towards a lifetime of healthy eating and physical activity, and more than 10,000 childcare programs participating in the Let’s Move! Child Care initiative are doing vitally important work on this front. Yet, while this announcement reflects important progress, we also know that there is tremendous work still to be done to support healthy futures for all our children.”
When Obama launched her initiative more than two and a half years ago, conservatives mocked the first lady’s commitment to ending childhood obesity. Sarah Palin accused Michelle Obama of using big government to take control of parenting decisions.
“Take her anti-obesity thing that she’s on,” Palin said on The Laura Ingraham Show.
“She’s on this kick, right? What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families and what we should eat. And I know I’m going to be again criticized for bringing this up, but instead of government thinking that they need to take over [and] make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife’s priorities, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.”
The former vice presidential candidate even took a shot at the first lady on her short-lived reality TV show. ”Where’s the s’mores ingredients,” Palin jokingly asked. “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”
Rush Limbaugh jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, attacking Michelle Obama for eating ribs at a meal when “she is demanding that everybody basically eat cardboard and tofu.”
“Michelle My Belle, minus the husband, took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation, and they were spotted eating and they were feasting on ribs,” Limbaugh said. “Ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Now I’m sure some of you members of the new castrati: ‘This is typical of what you do Mr. Limbaugh, you take an isolated, once in a lifetime experience, and try to say that she’s a hypocrite.’ She is a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we’re supposed to go out and eat nothing–if we’re supposed to eat roots, and berries and tree bark and so show us how. And if it’s supposed to make us fit, if it’s supposed to make us healthier, show us how.”
While the right continued their attacks, the first lady campaigned for an active lifestyle and healthier eating habits, and the message seemed to resonate. She visited Sesame Street and exercised with Elmo. She showed off her exercise routine by doing push-ups with Ellen DeGeneres (and mom-dancing with Late Night host Jimmy Fallon). She invited schoolchildren from across the country to help her garden and cook meals at the White House, and even enlisted Beyonce’s help with the “Move Your Body” music video for the initiative.
CDC research shows that about one in eight preschoolers is obese and that such children are five times more likely to be overweight later in childhood and adolescence. Obesity rates among preschoolers are improving, but the research states that there is still more work to be done. Among low-income children ages 2-4 years, between 2008 - 2011, obesity rates decreased slightly in 19 of the 43 states and territories studied, and obesity rates increased slightly in 3 of the 43 states and territories.