Frank Bruni Asks Whether Obama Anti-Obesity Initiative Could Backfire

Critics of Michelle Obama's Let's Move anti-childhood obesity initiative are about as easy to find as Roundup Ready crops in the White House organic garden. After all, how could healthier eating and increased physical activity for America's kids be bad? But Atlantic Food Channel contributor and former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni—who has had his own struggles with weight and eating—thinks it's at least possible, though not necessarily likely, that the program could lead children down the path to increased food anxieties, making them less healthy in the long run. Here's his assessment of Let's Move:

In exhorting people to MOVE—to be more active—the First Lady is indisputably on the right track. There can be no quibble with that prescription. Activity equals the burning of calories; the burning of calories equals the shedding of weight. Plus it has other health benefits, mental as well as physical. Let's move, indeed.

And in urging people to eat more natural, nutritious, less sugary foods and using the White House garden as a beacon and example, again, she and her campaign are irreproachable. True, there are a great many people in this country who have neither a patch of soil to cultivate nor the kind of discretionary income to purchase fresh organic produce, but the First Lady is showcasing an ideal, not issuing a command.

From that point on, though, it gets murkier, more difficult. Not long ago I spoke at a small conference of mental health professionals, a few of whom were upset—really upset—with some of what the Obamas were doing and saying. They felt there was, in the Obamas' talk about sweets and treats in their own family as well as others, too much demonization of pleasurable but unnecessary foods and too much demonization of a few extra pounds. They felt that a path was being paved toward the kind of anxiety—and the kind of undue obsession with appearance—that can make a child's or adult's relationship with food less healthy, not more.

Read the full story at Bornround.com.

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Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

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