First lady Michelle Obama pushed back against criticism that she should not have brought up the example of her daughters in her remarks about childhood obesity.
"I understand the sensitivity around ... the entire conversation, particularly as a mother with girls," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. "I mean this conversation is not about just weight or size or BMI [body mass index]. It's about overall health and the kind of lives that we want our kids to lead. And we've got to set them up for success."
The first lady said her pediatrician told her to look at her daughters' BMI and warned that "something was getting off balance."
"It's often hard to see changes in your own kids when you're living with them day in and day out," she said. "But we often simply don't realize that those kids are our kids, and our kids could be in danger of becoming obese. We always think that only happens to someone else's kid -- and I was in that position."
The first lady's comments stirred up the Web and medical world, drawing both criticism and praise. Some said Obama should not have personalized the issue and brought up her daughters. Even if it is for the greater public good, critics said, it does not bode well for her daughters' self-image. Others said the first lady used that example only to connect to Americans who may find themselves in a similar position.
Obama told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts that "we have to be very careful" when talking about young girls, and she emphasized that parents need to address the issue and "have a full conversation."
She again gave the example of her daughters to reiterate her own experiences in dealing with the issue, and as an example of how doctors and parents can work together.
"That was something I experienced. My pediatrician kind of waved a flag very early on in our -- in our girls growing up. And it was sort of like you might want to look out. But then what do you do?" Obama said. "And that's where we need to make sure that parents have the next steps that they can take if a problem is identified."
The first lady stressed the importance of balanced eating and how it helped her turn the situation around in her own household.
"We want to make sure that people understand this is about overall health and physical fitness is ... something that I stress in my household. It is a part of that. It's a natural part of your life," she told Roberts. "My kids have to get up and move. They can't sit in front of the TV. I have my girls involved in sports because I want them, as young women, to understand what it feels like to compete and to win and to run and to sweat. ... This is about all of that, as well."
When the first lady made her comments about her daughters in January, some said that Obama's comments could be perceived as too strong a focus on weight and dieting, which could send the wrong message to the public.
The first lady should be discussing behavioral change, not weight loss, said Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, an eating disorder activist and executive director of Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Disorder (F.E.A.S.T.).