Three years ago, Michelle Obama announced that her platform as first lady would be ending childhood obesity. She launched the Let’s Move! campaign in 2021 in order to bring together community leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses and parents in an effort to solve the problem of childhood obesity. It is her ambitious goal to solve the epidemic within a generation. We think it’s great that Mrs. Obama has put such an important issue in focus, and that Let’s Move! keeps adapting.
Since Let’s Move! started, Mrs. Obama has asked us to plant gardens, get up a dance and cut calories. She has even called on the U.S. military to set a good, healthy example for the rest of Americans. Her next step in evolving and adding to her quest against childhood obesity is asking people to drink more water. This new initiative, called Drink Up, urges Americans to drink water in the place of other beverages they consume. The first lady even “stole” the TODAY show anchors’ coffee and replaced it with water during an appearance last week.
While encouraging people to drink more water is all fine and good, is all the focus on healthy lifestyles really making a difference in the fight against childhood obesity? Though reports are showing that childhood obesity has leveled off somewhat, it still continues to be a major problem facing Americans. “So far there hasn’t been much progressing in the right direction,” said Dr. Keith Kantor, nutritionist and author of What Matters. “Lots more has to be done.” He feels that we are making a good start to overcome childhood obesity by making it a larger part of the national conversation through initiatives like Drink Up and the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) which is similar to the Presidential Fitness test many of us took part in when we were in school.
“It teaches kids to be active an hour a day and try new nutritional things,” Dr. Kantor said. This program is a welcome one for health advocates like Dr. Kantor who are concerned over the removal of physical education programs from schools. He said that cutting P.E. hurts children and adds to the obesity epidemic. Encouraging kids to be active and healthy is an important part of the first lady’s campaign against childhood obesity and is the reason Drink Up was launched.
Though the program is too new to have made of an impact so far, Dr. Kantor feels that is an important step towards eliminating childhood obesity. “We all focus on food,” he said. “The biggest sources of empty calories for children are beverages.” He suggests that parents encourage kids to drink water by flavoring it with fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. “If we switched them over, the childhood obesity epidemic would end,” Dr. Kantor said.