Editorial: Let’s Move spreads smart, healthy habits

Editorial Board

President Obama has announced that this will be a year of action. This just so happens to coincide with the efforts of another prominent Obama, First Lady Michelle. Her “Let’s Move” campaign has suffered its share of potholes, but it is exactly the kind of initiative our country must embrace now more than ever.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 35 percent of adults in the United States are obese, compared to 17 percent of American children and adolescents plagued by obesity.

Many regard the CDC’s classification of “obese” or “overweight” as indicators of poor health. A quick online search will prove that many bloggers, self-proclaimed nutritionists and even peer-reviewed science articles claim that people can be both overweight and healthy. As with any claims about a large population of people, though, these conclusions are not absolute.

Any particular person is still much more likely to be unhealthy when he or she is significantly overweight and when we are discussing national issues it is the general rule, not the exceptions, that we should be most concerned with.

That concern has to be taken in the context of the problem, though. With an issue as sensitive and personal as individual health, small, broad steps are the way for our government to go. Seeing the reaction to our health insurance mandate, one could only imagine the uproar that would be caused by a similar mandate on the dietary and exercise choices each of us makes daily.

This is why the first lady is such an appropriate champion for the cause of improving Americans’, and specifically American children’s, health. In the first lady’s own words, “This isn’t just a policy issue for me … I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.”

The changes accompanying the Let’s Move campaign have not come without resistance, though. Increased regulations on what can constitute school lunches, for example, have faced many problems with their implementation.

Portion size restrictions on meat and grains caused boycotts and protests around the country, and the Government Accountability Office estimates more than a million and a half students have removed themselves from the National School Lunch Program.

The major cause for this choice has been reportedly related to the taste of the food. It is unclear whether food quality itself was a problem, or whether students simply did not like the healthier food options they were being given.

These speedbumps in spreading the message of healthier lifestyle choices should not be seen as a failure of the programs intention. They are the unavoidable growing pains when a culture such as ours is exposed to choices with long term benefits rather than short term indulgence.

Although the Let’s Move campaign focuses on the children of America, the lessons and information offered, such as economical yet healthy grocery choices and sample menus for families or individuals, can be utilized by everyone.

As college students, we are often told to be aware of our health. Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexually transmitted diseases, are serious concerns, but they are not the only health issues we face. In our first few years of increasing independence, it is important for we young adults to be thinking about the healthy — or unhealthy — habits we will be forming.

Here at Iowa State, we have access not only to healthy food options in our many campus dining halls, but students all have access to gymnasiums and fitness centers simply by enrolling in classes. Taking the message of the Let’s Move campaign to heart may only be a start, but changes in our health, like all other changes, have to start somewhere.