Childhood obesity: Michelle's new cause

What Obama's 'Let's Move' campaign could mean for our chubby children

First Ladies have a tendency to take on noble but meaningless causes, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. But perhaps Michelle Obama’s new anti-obesity campaign “will be different.” The fit First Lady, who announced her “Let’s Move” campaign last week, certainly is taking aim at a serious problem. Stuffed with sweets and starches, and parked for long hours in front of TV screens and computer monitors, a third of our youngsters are now overweight or obese. That’s a 300 percent increase since 1980. These chubby children usually become flabby adults suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other obesity-related conditions that cost taxpayers $147 billion annually.

Obama is right about the problem, said Julie Gunlock in National Review Online, but not about her solution—“government intervention.” She admitted that her own daughters started getting chubby a few years ago because of a working-mother’s diet of fast food and pizza. Did the government step in to save them? No: Obama made “small but significant changes to her daughters’ diets and habits,” serving them smaller portions, making fruit and vegetables part of every meal, and turning off the TV more often. In short, she practiced “responsible parenting.” Why, then, does the fight against obesity require a presidential task force and blue-ribbon reports from experts? Expect more government intervention in the near future, said Mark Bittman in The New York Times. The Obama administration is weighing imposing a federal tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks of up to a penny per ounce. For children and teens, soda often provides 10 percent of all calories and is a major cause of unhealthful weight gain. Soon, soda “may be treated like tobacco: with taxes, warning labels, and a massive public-health marketing campaign, all to discourage consumption.”

I’ve got a better idea, said Dan Haley in The Denver Post. More exercise. My own generation “snacked on Cheetos, guzzled Mountain Dew” and Kool-Aid, and we thought burgers and fries were health food. Yet we stayed thin because “we played outside, all day, until the street lights came on. And then we played a bit more.” What this generation needs even more than a better diet is a lifestyle change—way more time spent in physical games and activity, and way less time hooked up to iPods and video games. So kids, get out of the house and have some real fun. And ignore your parents when they tell you it’s time to come in.

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