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WebMD’s Town Hall with First Lady Michelle Obama

By Michael Smith, MD

Michelle Obama and Town Hall Panel

What an amazing and exciting event in Homestead, FL! WebMD is thrilled to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Let’s Move with First Lady Michelle Obama (See Mrs. Obama’s video). The questions from the audience and WebMD’s nationwide audience were great and the answers from Mrs. Obama and the expert panelists were even better. Where do I start?

The event kicked off with a question for the First Lady regarding her favorite go-to healthy meals. She raised a great point – “I remind my kids that a lot of foods out there are healthy. A hamburger is not unhealthy if it’s on a whole wheat bun, grilled and not fried.”

So what about dessert? “Dessert is that ‘sometimes’ treat.” She limits dessert to the weekends and makes sure to have plenty of healthy snacks around, like fruit, trail mix, and air-popped popcorn. She encouraged families to keep it simple.

Now for what to eat before and after exercise: Jim Kauffman, YMCA fitness expert told the packed audience to eat some protein about an hour before a workout and avoid anything heavy. Mrs. Obama said her favorite snack before working out is peanut butter and apples. WebMD Director of Nutrition Kathleen Zelman noted that after working out is a good time to enjoy that glass of chocolate milk since research has shown it to be a great post-workout drink.

So how do you fit healthy foods into your grocery budget?  Dr. Hansa Bhargava, WebMD pediatrician, advised listeners to “eat at home; it’s much less expensive.” Before arriving at the white house, Mrs. Obama said that’s exactly what they did. “We decreased the number of times we went out. That meant I had to be way more organized.” She used to make enough for leftovers so one meal would last a couple of nights. “My kids liked being at home and liked sitting around the table.” Even at the White House, the Obamas sit down together and have dinner. “My girls aren’t as focused on gobbling down the food when they’re involved in conversation.”

Next, the battle of broccoli. What do you do when your kid doesn’t like veggies? “Be creative,” said Zelman. “I got my kids to love vegetables  by grilling or roasting them.” Dr. Bhargava noted that research shows your kids may need to try a vegetable eight or nine times before they like it. Mrs. Obama said she takes a tougher stance: “Sometimes, it’s just, eat your vegetables.”

How does the First Lady balance her work, family, exercise, stress, and sleep? By prioritizing what’s important and making sacrifices. “The secret is good diet and exercise. Sorry, it just is.” And she makes sure her two daughters know exercise is a priority. “I make sure my girls know mommy is tired … mommy doesn’t want to work out, but I do it.” Mrs. Obama had a great tip for motivating yourself. “When you come home from work, put on your workout clothes — not your pajamas.” Another tip is to work out first thing in the morning, as Mrs. Obama does, and get it out of the way. “You never know what your day is going to look like.”

How often does the First Lady work out? Every day! Of course, sometimes life gets in the way. She admitted she sometimes can’t work out when she travels, like today when she had to get down to Homestead for the WebMD Town Hall.

How do the Obamas compete with video games? “Just say no. Turn if off.” Dr. Bhargava shockingly noted that kids are spending 7.5 hours a day on media.

What about TV time? “We have strict rules,” Mrs. Obama said. They do not allow their girls to watch any TV during the week unless they “earn it.” They can earn up to an hour of TV time during the week and are allowed two hours on Friday and three hours on Saturday. She noted that the girls get bored and figure out something else to do.

What can we do to encourage our kids to get enough sleep? Unplug – 50% of our kids have TVs in their rooms; 40% of 4-year-olds. Unplug at least an hour before sleeping.

And finally … bedtime. “We still set bedtimes,” the First Lady said. “As they get older, they get more homework but there is a bedtime expectation and there is a goal to work towards that.”

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