Health News

Michelle Obama’s Anti Obesity Initiative Gains Traction

Michelle Obama likes to keep family healthy

First lady encourages kids to participate in sports and maintain good diet

By Nancy Benac

WASHINGTON – Michelle Obama dishes on her family’s health and eating habits in a new magazine interview, admitting she can’t stand beets and that she does an occasional dietary “cleanse” to clear her palate and change her mindset.

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Michelle Obama's Anti Obesity Initiative
Michelle Obama.

In an interview for the September issue of Ladies’ Home Journal, Obama says she recently was “on a sort of cleanse” in which she was just eating vegetables. The first lady, who’s on a campaign against childhood obesity, also says she never talks about weight with her daughters because the topic’s too sensitive, and that she made the girls take up tennis under protest.

“I have them do a sport that they like and sport that I like,” the first lady said. “I want them to understand what it feels like to do something you don’t like and to improve. Because in life you don’t always get to do the things you want.”

Daughters Sasha and Malia resisted tennis at first, she says, “but now they’re starting to get better and they actually like it. And I’m like, ‘Mom was right!'”

The first lady also made a point to show she’s human when it comes to diet and exercise: She said there are days when she skips her typical 4:30 a.m. workout and that on a recent weekend in Chicago she “ate everything that was available. In fact, we had a take-out food-fest.”

And she can’t stand beets.

“Neither the president nor I have the beet gene,” she says.

Obama doesn’t give a lot of detail about her cleanses, saying that she might do one for two days but that “it isn’t a way of life because I like food too much.”

The cleanses, she said, “help me clean out my palate. Because when you start adding things like sugars into your diet, you start craving them. And the more you eat, the more you crave.”

A cleanse can involve a temporary change in diet promoted to rid the body of toxins and improve well-being.

The first lady’s cleanse involves eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible and cutting out fats, oil, dairy, meat, caffeine, sugar and starch for a short period of time, according to the White House.

Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said of a cleanse such as the one described by the first lady: “I definitely wouldn’t recommend it because you’re missing food groups.” While missing food groups for a couple of days may not result in deficiencies, she said, “it’s really not necessary. You can still feel good by having a balanced diet,” eating whole foods and removing processed foods and saturated fats.

Some more radical cleanse regimens in which people give up solid foods for days and eat only liquid solutions can be dangerous, Mangieri said.

The first lady has the cover photo in the September issue of Ladies’ Home Journal. The Meredith National Media Group, which publishes the magazine, also is pushing the first lady’s anti-obesity initiative with articles or recipes in the September issues of Family Circle and Parents and in the October issues of Ser Padres and Siempre Mujer.