Ask Washington Anything: Sam Kass

The executive director of Let's Move! and former White House chef answers questions from Reddit users in a new video series from The Atlantic.

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"What's the most prevalent myth about fitness and nutrition that stands between us and a healthy population?" Reddit user AllLift asks Sam Kass, the head of the first lady's Let's Move! program, in an interview for Atlantic Video's Ask Washington Anything series.

The 33-year-old former White House chef puts on a puzzled face and cocks his head toward the wall behind him. "So many to choose from!" he exclaims, pretending briefly to be overwhelmed before offering his thoughts on misconceptions around calorie counting and exercise. In the 20-minute video above, Kass fields questions submitted by Reddit's Fitness community, covering topics like nutrition policy, sugary beverages, and the true meaning behind the name "Let's Move!"

What Is Ask Washington Anything?

The interview kicks off a new series called Ask Washington Anything, produced by Atlantic Video in partnership with Reddit. Inspired by the social media site's popular "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer sessions, we've reached out to politicians and other Washington insiders to field queries from Reddit users. Our first three videos feature Kass; Grover Norquist, president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform; and Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia. 

How Does It Work? 

On Monday, Reddit's general manager Erik Martin invited Reddit's Fitness community to "ask Sam Kass anything." Twenty-four hours later, we gathered the ten best questions (more on that below) and on November 13, Kass answered them on video. We're grateful to everyone who took time to submit questions and vote the best ones to the top. We'd also like to thank Erik and all the moderators for welcoming this experiment and making it possible. 

In the interest of making sure all ten questions got answered in the limited time we had, we decided to excerpt just the questions from the comments. Users often wrote long and detailed comments, which you can read in full here. We realize some users might be upset that we couldn't include the full text of their comments, but we believe shorter questions make for more watchable videos and helped ensure that all ten questions were covered. Moving forward, we'll be sure to make these constraints more clear in advance so that users can format their questions accordingly. The ten questions we asked, sorted by "best" and edited for length, are: 

1. Big_Timber asks: What would you change about high school curriculum to better promote nutrition education? What are you satisfied with?

2. Inquatitis asks: How do you feel about the fat-acceptance movement and their stance on Health At Every Size?

3. ChadMinshew asks: With rising obesity rates and the inevitable financial burden that follows, how long will we wait before there is a measured push (like with tobacco) to educate citizens on drinking their calories?

4. AllLift asks: What would you say is the most prevalent myth people believe regarding exercise or nutrition that stands between us and a healthy, fit population?

5. Big_Timber asks: What healthy food options are available for people at near poverty levels and how do they relate in cost to unhealthy food options?

6. Always_positive_guy asks: I've read a little about the Administration's attempts to address the problem of food deserts by bringing grocery stores and supermarkets … Why does the Administration appear so focused on bringing large grocery stores … when public education programs could encourage production of healthier foods as well?

7. anchusa asks: If rising rates of chronic disease and obesity continue, they will at some point seriously affect the size of the healthy and productive American workforce. Are we there yet? Are we headed there? What are the implications of an unhealthy population for American society on a large scale?

8. nakedjay asks: Do you think fast food is the primary cause for obesity in America?

9. ta104 asks: Isn't the emphasis on exercise in the Let's Move! campaign a little misplaced? I understand that the campaign includes a focus on nutrition, and appreciate that the website puts "Eating Healthy" front and center. The problem is that the name seems to feed into the myth that obesity is primarily determined by exercise and not diet, even though the reverse is true. Why not choose a name that reflects this?

10. AhmedF asks: Is Examine.com the greatest nutrition site or the greatest?

What's That Handwritten Sign?

AMA contributors often take a photo of themselves with handmade signs to put a face to their typewritten answers (and provide identity verification). Bill Gates, for example, made a particularly nice sign for his AMA. We didn't technically need to verify any of the interviewees' identities since these conversations are captured on video—but we still thought the signs looked cool.

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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