A portion of the speech delivered by Michelle Obama at the National Governors Association meeting in DC, passed on to me by my friend Chef Ron Askew rang familiar bells. How many of you remember running around outside twice a day when you were in elementary school? How many of you don’t?! I did. I went to elementary school back in the dark ages when girls had to wear dresses. We always had a spare pair of pants to put on for recess so we could spin around on the chin up bars.
And when you got home from school what did you do? Like Ms. Obama – I was sent outside to play and told not to come back until dinnertime. This spurred endless games among the kids in the neighborhoods. Kick the Can, softball, jumping on old inner tubes. I never remember watching TV until after dinner and only if I had no homework. What did you do? What do your kids do?
I also love what she says about home-cooked meals and fast food. Michael Pollan says it is fine to eat all the junk food you want as long as you make it yourself. Ha! He knows. Nobody can make Cheetos or Coke Zero in their kitchen. French fries are quite a task. Here’s part of the First Lady’s sensible speech:
“But we all know that there’s another set of statistics that have to be a part of this discussion — like how nearly one in three of our children in this country is now overweight or obese. Like how one in three kids today will eventually develop diabetes — and in the African American and Hispanic communities, the number is nearly half.
But we have to begin by understanding how we got here, what’s caused this crisis in the first place. And I have my theories, but when you all think about it, this is a relatively new phenomenon. This wasn’t something that we were dealing with when I was growing up. Back when we were all growing up, most of us led lives that naturally kept us at a healthy weight. We walked to school and we walked home, because we usually lived in communities where our schools were close. All of us ran around all day at school, doing recess and gym because everybody had to do it. And then when we got home, we’d be sent right back outside and told not to come back home until dinner was served. You know your parents didn’t let you in the house.
And back then we ate sensibly. We had many more home-cooked meals. That was the norm. And much to our dismay at the time, there was always something green on the plate. Fast food and dessert was a special treat. You had it but you didn’t have it every day, and the portion sizes were reasonable. In my family I remember a couple of pints of ice cream — this was a big treat — we’d get three pints of ice cream for a family of four and that would last us a week, because you wouldn’t eat a pint, you’d get a scoop, and that would be it. You’d savor that a spoonful at a time.
And these weren’t arbitrary rules that our parents just made up. As we know now, it was a way of life they imposed to help keep us active and healthy. They knew back then that kids couldn’t and shouldn’t sit still for hours. They knew that kids needed to run around and play. They knew that keeping us healthy wasn’t about saying no to everything, but it was about balance and moderation…but somewhere along the line, we kind of lost that sense of perspective and moderation. And we all want the very best for our kids just like our parents wanted for us.”