Sunday, March 27, 2016

Let's Move!

Tonight's cocktail is water straight up, served in the water bottle I got in my swag bag from the White House the other week. Oh, right. I went to the White House the other week (as one does), and now Michelle Obama is my BFF. Or at least close enough. No big deal. Our relationship defies labels.

The Presidential hand towel (left) wasn't in the swag bag. I might have stolen it out of the bathroom. In my defense, it was the disposable kind.
Awhile back, BlogHer/SheKnows Media asked whether I would be interested in going to the White House for a promotional event for the First Lady's (FLOTUS, for those in the know) Let's Move! initiative. I responded "Yes," because "Sweet baby Moses tapdancing on a popsicle stick yes!" was not offered as a choice. After agonizing over what to wear, getting my hair and nails done, and then, on the morning of the event, ditching my cab in traffic to sprint across LaFayette Park so that I wouldn't be late (destroying all my good hair and makeup intentions), there I was, a hot mess, as usual. At least I got a workout in.

Eleanor Roosevelt didn't mind. She gets me.
Like everyone who hasn't been in a coma for the past 7 years, I knew that the FLOTUS had adopted wellness in general, and childhood obesity in particular, as her featured causes. I'd seen that Congress passed legislation (the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010) that changed the nutritional standards for the School Lunch Program (perhaps not enough, but any improvement is good). I'd also seen and enjoyed videos in which the FLOTUS encourages us all to get off our duffs and move around, like this one:

It turns out that these efforts are the tip of the iceberg. My eyes tend to glaze over in shame when people rattle off statistics about how fat we all are and how much it costs society, because God knows I could stand to lose a few pounds, but the message wasn't like that. It was about finding ways to be incrementally healthier in our daily lives and making good choices easy for everyone, not just people who can afford fancy organic produce and personal trainers. It was about a long term national and personal commitment to wellness, not a fad or a cleanse. Like anything worth doing, it takes time and persistence, trial and error, and that's not only OK; it's expected.

For my children, unlike about a third of their peers (in African American and Hispanic communities, the number is closer to 40%), obesity isn't currently a danger simply because they are so active, and because they are at least somewhat willing to eat fruits and vegetables (tremendous progress from when they were younger and would only eat things that were white or beige). Fortunately, in addition to the sports they play outside of school, they have PE in their elementary school twice per week, plus daily recess - unlike 44% of U.S. schools, theirs hasn't eliminated or cut back on PE or recess. I'm thankful for this, because not only is it better for their health, having regular exercise during the school day helps them concentrate and do better in school, plus it enhances their emotional well being by giving them a healthy way to burn off stress. I think all parents should push back against short-sighted and counterproductive efforts to improve test scores at the expense of kids' physical and mental health.

Unlike my children, I didn't enjoy playing sports when I was a kid. I preferred to lounge dreamily in a chair with a book. Unlike the classroom, where I excelled, PE was torture to me. I couldn't climb the rope, catch the ball, run the laps, etc. It felt like drudgery, I was embarrassed, and I didn't want to do it. If they'd had workouts like this one, which Let's Move (and Beyonce!) designed and implemented in 600 schools across the country, I probably would have enjoyed it more:

As I work to motivate myself as an adult to be more active and demonstrate good self-care habits to my kids, I've realized that exercise can be fun, and even if I'm not especially "good" at it, the point is to do it and enjoy how it makes me feel. The rest will follow.

That's why I like the multi-faceted approach of Let's Move. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a menu of options that people can try as they figure out what lifestyle changes they need to make. From improving nutrition in schools and daycares, to bringing gardens into schools and communities where fresh produce can be difficult to find and afford, to promoting wellness through faith communities, to encouraging localities to provide low-cost opportunities to be active, to making National Park admissions free for every fourth grader in the country (and their families!), Let's Move aims to reach people where they are and give them the tools they need to become healthier as individuals, families, and communities. It all fits together.

While I didn't get to shake hands with the First Lady after her remarks (which was probably good because I might have embarrassed myself by trying to massage her flawless biceps), I'm so glad I got to attend this event and be inspired to work on improving my family's lifestyle. I encourage you to look at the Let's Move! website to see what kinds of nutrition and fitness programs are going on in your community and how to get involved. Whether it's adding a post-dinner family walk to your routine, planting a kitchen garden, or finding healthy, tasty, recipes, none of the lifestyle changes are particularly difficult or unpleasant. Try things, educate yourself, see what you can do, come back for more.

OK, I know her biceps don't actually light up a room, but that's how it felt to be in the same room with them.


  1. So cool, on so many levels! I am now motivated to make incremental changes. Like trying to not eat that saltena in the fridge that keeps calling my name.....!

  2. Love this! Such a wonderful experience!

  3. So after chilling with you at the cast party tonight, I had to come say HI HI HI and I promise to not even be an ass about the fact that like a billion of my blog friends got to go to this and I didn't get an invite because instead, I am happy for you and celebrate your experience with First Lady biceps because the water rises and we all or whatever. Great to see you and CANNOT WAIT to hear your piece next month!!!


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