I knew I liked Michelle Obama for a reason.
Not only is she a born-and-raised Chicagoan (from the South Side like yours truly) but she’s doing something I think is long-overdue – talking about, and more importantly, doing something about childhood obesity.
Recently, the First Lady brought her battle against childhood obesity to Pennsylvania and was in Philadelphia discussing healthy eating, exercise and the need to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables in cities.
The problem of childhood obesity has been a national concern for years, but all the talk is not solving the problem. Physicians say, in fact, it is getting worse. Nearly one third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Hence, September has been designated National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Why am I in support of Mrs. Obama and her “Let’s Move” initiative? I was one of those kids at risk. I was an overweight kid who had the perfect storm of factors that contributed to not only childhood obesity but also led to me being an overweight adult:
Perfect Storm Factor Number One: I ate poorly. Not because my mom didn’t do the best she could (she certainly did and I love her for it) but we didn’t have lots of money when I was growing up. Therefore, we ate what foods were cheap. We also didn’t cook at home, having very limited resources. As a consequence, we ate out a lot and at places that didn’t serve healthy foods – Chinese food, fast food and pizza parlors.
Perfect Storm Factor Number Two: I never learned what portion control was. Growing up without money meant sometimes we didn’t know where our next meals were coming from. So when we ate we ate, and lots of it.
Perfect Storm Factor Number Three: Poor eating habits and learning a sedentary lifestyle. When I was in grammar school (1st – 8th grades), we’d have to eat lunch in only 10 or so minutes (unhealthy in itself) and then sit the rest of the day. Very much like so many of us do as adults. Except I was doing it as a kid! Multiply that 5-day-a-week activity by 9 months in a school year for 8 years – you can see how behaviors became a part of my lifestyle.
As I grew into adulthood I carried those learned bad eating habits with me and that’s what started me in my downward tumble towards 400 lbs.
I’m so glad Mrs. Obama is leading this charge for our nation’s youth. According to national projections, if nothing changes nearly 50 percent of all Americans — children and adults — will be obese in the next 10 years. That is alarming especially when you think of how many people have joint pain, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes and other obesity-related health issues. These things were happening to me.
If it sounds like I am a cheerleader for the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative, I am and unashamedly so. I not only agree with the purpose but can empathize with the urgency. I would so love to be able to go back to my old grammar school, Murray Language Academy in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, to start helping kids in the same hallowed halls where I made bad food choices years ago.
We always tell children they can be anything they want to be in life, even President of the United States. But without access to healthier foods we are not giving these children the tools they need to begin that long journey towards their own success.