Friday, January 29, 2010

obesity and the obama kids

Michelle Obama began an official campaign against childhood obesity by discussing a warning from the First Family’s doctor that her own daughters were becoming overweight.

“In my eyes I thought my children were perfect,” Mrs Obama said at an event organised by US health officials to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity. “I didn’t see the changes.”

The children's doctor “cautioned me that I had to look at my children’s BMI”, or body mass index. “He was concerned that something was getting off balance.”

Mrs. Obama added, "her doctor — he really monitors this type of thing — suggested we look at her diet. So we cut out juice boxes, sweets and processed foods.” These modest alterations to the lifestyle of Malia and her sister, Sasha, 8, produced the desired results.

President Obama discussed Malia's apparent weight problem in November, 2008. He described how the habits of their children had to change, because “a couple of years ago — you’d never know it by looking at her now — Malia was getting a little chubby,”

So, Mrs. Obama thought that Malia was perfect, until she gained a couple of pounds, and then she wasn't? So, can only thin children can be considered perfect in the eyes of their parents? What if the "modest alterations" hadn't worked and Malia had maintained her "chubbiness"? Would Mrs. Obama have thought less of her?

I've seen so many pictures of the girls, from babyhood on. it never once occurred to me that they were anything but absolutely nice, normal weights. And their parents are both so beautifully tall, i'm sure the girls will spring up and lose any (alleged) baby fat. And what if they don't?

As for the president. i remember how i felt when my father (frequently) told me i was fat. i can't imagine if he'd announced it to the entire nation and then it becoming a national issue.

Now the world will be watching Malia's weight as she heads toward puberty.

Readers, any thoughts?


  1. Wow, this is nuts! I had no idea they were focusing on this type of thing. The focus is really, really unhealthy. And I wish doctors would shut up about BMI. It is not the be-all and end-all of health! That's just ridiculous! These are young GIRLS! There is just no need for this emphasis. They are trying to make them examples or something, and that's just wrong.

  2. I'm with you. I HATE the BMI. I know it's totally bogus but I still buy into it. I'll be happy if I just loose another 20 lbs. It's hard to get off the wheel.

    And yeah to have you dad say it to the whole USA, well let's just say I doubt she get's bullied at school but imagine if she didn't have the secret service around her. The tormenting would be epic.

  3. I can't imagine any child of the president escapes the experience unscathed - remember how cruel the press were about Chelsea Clinton?

  4. I thought this entire episode was apalling. Talk about making your children feel publicly humiliated. Plus, placing an emotional value on your children based on their BMI. Tell me that is not a trigger for developing some sort of eating disorder. Shame on the Obama's for even mentioning it. They should have just adjusted their food lifestyle in private.

    Now, everytime those kids are seen with an icecream the newspapers will have a field day.

    BMI is crap by the way. It does not take into account age, build, muscle, genetics, shape and other blah blah things. Anyone who is carrying too much weight knows it anyway. Who needs a BMI formula to tell you. The whole thing about weight is OUT OF CONTROL. I wish the media, the government and all other experts would just stop badgering people. No wonder people are depressed.

  5. kim; the whole thing struck me as so traumatic. i wish someone would ask malia's opinion!

    no matter if i agree with the president or not, i'm usually so mesmerized by his words and sex appeal, that i find myself nodding along. this is the first time i was...well, grossed-out and furious.

    eat for fun; i wonder how malia feels about herself. and how other girls feel about themselves, if the president calls his own daughter "chubby", which she WASN'T! but does that even matter.

    david, can you just take a break and get off the loop there for a while. your body has gone through a lot of trauma recently. please give it some love.

    lula labonne; i always worried about chelsea clinton. i kind of looked like her. and she always had to stand on stage with Al Gore's beautiful blondes.

    yes, we do pick on everyone. why are we so mean?

    linda; you said it best. why do we care about all this? i've had such a crazy, busy couple of weeks. and now i got picked for jury duty at a really bad time. then business travel starts with a zest on monday. but still, i find time to focus on my food and weight. it makes no sense!

    i'm really disappointed in the obama's. they seemed like such good and healthy parents. and now, i think it's really sucky what they've done.

    obama's conservative opponent in the last election, john mccain, seems quite comfortable with his daughter, meghan, who's gotten a lot of flack for being larger than a hollywood starlet. meghan's great about handling the fact that she's not a size nothing.

    do i need to become a republican?

  6. I think it's horrible how they went about it.

    I think they should have switched doctors, not taken away the girls juice boxes, for Christ's sake.

    I agree, the way they publicly flogged her for this was disgusting.

    What will they do when they will inevitably have to get the girl treatment for her inevitable eating disorder that they INSURED she would have???

    I'm all about feeding your kids healthy foods, for longevity, for health and for general good nutrition, but this? This was beyond extreme.

  7. Ugh, well apparently here is the full quote, well at least more of it. I always believe that people get misquoted. Said Mrs. Obama, "we were fortunate enough to have a pediatrician, as I've mentioned, that kind of waved the red flag for me as a mother, and basically cautioned me that I had to take a look at my own children's BMI. Now, we went to our pediatrician all the time. I thought my kids were perfect -- they are and always will be -- but he warned that he was concerned that something was getting off balance, because fortunately he was a pediatrician that worked predominantly in an African American urban community, and he knew these trends existed, and he was watching very closely in his client population, his patient population."

    So I am assuming that when she meant "perfect" she meant ONLY in regards to weight.

    At my daughter's school they check BMI and send notes home to parents if the BMI is out of the normal range. I, too, hate BMI. But I also hate grades and SAT scores. Unfortunately there has to be some kind of measure to easily determine what is within the norm. We had to lie to our new insurance company because we thought they would deny us coverage because my 19 year old son's BMI is below the normal range. How crazy is that?

    There is no good answer here.

  8. Harriet, argh argh argh to schools that send home BMI reports. Does no one remember the growth spurt? My brother grew like six inches in a year.

    I wish the Obamas had just come out in their support of healthy lifestyles (which yes, does include the occasional ice cream) without dragging their daughters into it. I guess they were going for empathy with other parents?

  9. Just now when I was reading the president's quote about how Malia was "getting a little bit chubby" I was so horrified that I gasped out loud! What a terrible thing for a father to say about his daughter, to anyone, let alone the whole nation! I remember being referred to as "husky" back before I knew what it meant. When I found out that it meant chubby i was devastated.
    Why do we live in a culture where it is ok to be critical of eachother's bodies? As if a body was all we are?????

  10. karen; do you mind sharing a little about how you raised your daughters? i have a sense they have managed to escape the tyranny of "skinny". you seem like you've been fairly natural about your own weight. i'm always in awe of that.

    harriet; thank you for sharing the whole quote. it does make more sense. i'm still not excited that the girls were specifically mentioned and referred to as "chubby" at one point in their lives. terrific, make healthier choices, but keep it private.

    i can never seem to remember what the BMI is. i kind of know but i can't get all worked up. i can't believe you had to lie about your son's weight. why will the insurance companies only insure the people they deem healthiest? i guess we know the to answer to that one!

    do you think they would have refused insurance for Mother Theresa because she was too skinny?

    Lisa; i find myself obsessed with the fact that those girls are going to grow soon and lose any semblance of "baby fat". based on their parent, they'll probably be natural string beans. leave them alone, right.

    i so agree they could have kept the thing private and perhaps said that the whole family has been eating more healthfully.

    Lisalisa; i wonder the same -- why do we care so much about the way our body's looks? it doesn't even make sense. what does it have to do with anything?

    now i'm remembering my own "husky childhood". your comment triggered my next post.

    hope you're well.