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Michelle Obama Takes on Childhood Obesity

America's First Mom Talks With WebMD About How Families -- Including Hers -- Can Eat Healthfully and Be Active
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What can an overextended mom do to help keep her children active when she might not have enough time to keep herself active? You've said you had those problems yourself -- how did you change that?

A couple of years ago, I got a tap on the shoulder from my pediatrician. We were always fairly active as a family, but I did get caught on the diet front. I was experiencing what most working mothers are: working full time, a husband that travels, taking kids to activities, and at the end of the day you find yourself too tired to make a full meal with baked chicken and vegetables. So I was doing what most parents were doing: calling the pizza guy too much and hitting the drive-through.

My pediatrician works in a predominantly African-American community and always checks a child's BMI. He told me that Malia and Sasha were heading in the wrong direction. I was surprised -- I thought I was doing everything right! So I made a few changes in our eating habits -- eliminating sugary juices, sending little water bottles in the girls' lunches, and cooking dinner at home at least one or two times a week. (I knew I wasn't going to cook every night!)

By the time we returned a few months later, the doctor was stunned at the turnaround. "What are you doing with them?" he asked. "You told me I had to make changes," I said. The simplicity of that solution was something I wanted to share.

What kinds of simple solutions are you talking about?

Turn off the TV and turn on the radio, and have a dance party in the living room with your kids. Walk them to school. Cook dinner at home just one or two nights a week. You don't have to do anything drastic to make a difference.

You planted a community garden at the White House. How can parents with a slightly smaller yard grow their own fresh veggies?

Sure, we have an 1,100-square-foot plot to work with -- but soil, seeds and all, it still cost only $200 to plant. You don't need a lot of money and a big plot of land. I've visited schools that are planting gardens in little boxes -- celery, lettuce, and so forth. You just need a box of dirt and some seeds. And kids love it. They embrace the entire process: planting, harvesting, cooking, and eating.

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