White House Launches 'Let's Move' Campaign to Fight Childhood Obesity

First Lady Michelle Obama Pledges to Increase Number of Healthy Schools

February 08, 2010, 10:46 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2010 -- At camp last summer, Andrea "Poqui" Begara, 14, weighed in at 180 pounds. She confessed that she often cried herself to sleep and was worn down from the constant teasing at school.

Poqui said she often felt alone. But nearly one in every three children is obese.

'Let's Move' Launch

For this reason, first lady Michelle Obama launched her highly buzzed campaign to fight childhood obesity today, a problem she called one of the "most serious threats to (children's) future."

The initiative, dubbed "Let's Move," presents a bold and ambitious agenda to reshape how American children eat, move, and live.

In a press conference this afternoon, the first lady outlined how the program would help solve "the problem of childhood obesity in a generation, so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight."

Among the initiatives in the agenda are bringing healthier lunches and snacks into school cafeterias, eliminating "food deserts" by opening grocery stores in under-served communities and encouraging children to be more active by joining the President's Physical Fitness Challenge.

Earlier in the day, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum establishing the Task Force on Childhood Obesity. The task force will review the existing programs and policies relating to children's health issues and develop an action plan to meet the goals of the new initiative.

Childhood obesity threatens to make this generation of American children the first to live shorter lives than their parents, doctors say. And those lives could be riddled with some surprising consequences. Overweight girls are more likely to enter puberty earlier, while overweight boys tend to have delayed puberty.

Additionally, obese children are more likely to suffer from asthma and the extra weight can cause liver problems and Type 2 diabetes, which is an adult disease. The arteries of overweight children often resemble those of a 45-year-old, which can lead to heart disease.

Obese children are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression, experts say.

Michelle Obama's Wake Up Call

Michelle Obama today said she shared in the struggle to keep her family fit when she was a working mother in Chicago.

"Trying to balance meetings and deadlines and soccer and ballet," she said. "There are plenty of nights you got home so tired and hungry you just wanted to get drive-through because it was quick and cheap."

At a check-up of her children, she said she got a wake-up call from her pediatrician.

"He pulled me aside and said, 'You might want to think about doing things differently,'" Obama said.

She admitted that there is no "one-size-fits-all solution" for the issue, but said she hopes the "Let's Move" campaign can finally curb the obesity epidemic and bring about some positive change.

Poqui is already working toward that change. She lost nearly 20 pounds at a weight-loss camp. So far, she's been able to keep off the weight and lose an addition 15 pounds.

Her mother said she has done it by controlling portion size and moving more: she joined the track team and became the school mascot. She said she's lost the weight, and found herself.

The White House has created a Web site LetsMove.gov as a resource to parents offering facts, strategies, healthy recipes and exercise plans.

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