Michelle Obama under fire over obesity comments

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New York, Feb 6 (ANI): US First Lady Michelle Obama has been criticised and praised for mentioning daughter Malia's weight during a campaign about childhood obesity.

According to ABCNews.com, Michelle had started off by recalling a visit she had made to a paediatrician and about being warned "he was concerned that something was getting off balance."

The First Lady said she had not noticed the changes, and the doctor suggested that she take a look at her kids' BMI, after which she made some changes in their daily habits.

Her comments are said to have drawn both praise and criticism, with eating disorder specialists and nutritionists holding forth on what constitutes the best way to get the message of good nutrition to kids.

Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, an eating disorder activist and executive director of Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Disorder, found the comments confusing.

"We've confused health and weight in a way that's very confusing for children and very confusing for parents," the New York Daily News quoted her as saying.

"When we speak publicly about putting our children on a diet, we start to get into weight stigma and confusing the message to families," she stated.

But Michelle was also praised for bringing the issue out in the open.

"The fact that she made this public, about her own ... modest changes she made was exactly that - that this is a public conversation about what we're all doing," American Academy of Paediatrics president Dr. Judith Palfrey said.

"It's like a neighbourhood conversation except that it's national, about how we live," she added.

Childhood obesity impacts nearly one-third of the children in the United States, with one in three children either overweight or obese.

Thus, some nutrition and medical experts say it's not an issue that can be ignored and that Michelle Obama's comments were appropriate.

"I think she brought out a good message since the childhood obesity rate is soaring and childhood diabetes is all too common," Dr. John Salerno, a board-certified family physician at Patients Medical in Manhattan, who specializes in weight loss, said.

"Bringing awareness to this problem is a good thing, especially when there is an emphasis not just on weight but on general good health, exercise and a healthy lifestyle," he stated.

Registered dietician Keri Gans, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says that when dealing with weight issues and children, it's better to focus on positive behaviours.

"The obsession with the numbers on the scale starts when kids are very young," Gans said.

"It's important to make comments such as that a person looks healthy rather than that a person is overweight or underweight," Gans added.

Parents have tremendous influence over their kids when it comes to healthy eating, says registered dietician Anne Fletcher, author of "Weight Loss Confidential."

"The best thing you can be as a parent is a healthy role model," she said.

"A parent shouldn't be overly focused on her own weight and always talking about it and making comments such as that she feels fat on a particular day," she stated.

But while it may be best not to speak about actual numbers on the scale, Fletcher says, to ignore the weight issue is to put one's head in the sand.

"Weight is out there and kids aren't stupid," Fletcher said.

"It's an issue that is all around us. But don't just talk about it. Your child is more likely to eat healthy and to exercise if you do so," she added. (ANI)

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