During a press conference that First Lady, Michele Obama staged on June 23, 2010 in a Washington DC area school to launch the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in conjunction with her own“Let’s Move!” initiative, Mrs Obama stated that this year President Obama has broadened the scope of the Council (formerly known as the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports created in 1953) to include a focus on healthy eating as well as active lifestyles. On June 22, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order outlining the Council’s new emphasis on both good nutrition and physical fitness. Mrs Obama also stated that “they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel.”
This would sound like music to my ears but for the facts that:
1. The government’s track record hasn’t been all that great regarding recommendations for better nutrition in nearly 40 years (a timeframe which coincides with the sky-rocketing epidemic of obesity).
2. “The wheel” Mrs Obama was referring to was actually invented in the mid 1950’s by Republican President Dwight D Eisenhower.
A little historical background regarding the government and recommendations regarding nutrition and fitness:
In 1917, under the administration of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, the USDA released its first food guide. It was titled “How to Select Foods.” The Foods recommended came in 5 groups:
1. milk and meat
3. vegetables and fruit
4. fats and fatty foods
5. sugars and sugary foods.
But since there was no emphasis on consumption of specific vitamins and minerals the government later changed these recommendations. In 1946 under Democratic Harry S Truman’s Administration the government released the “National Nutrition Guide”. This guide offered 7 food groups which supported the government’s RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) requirements. This created tremendous confusion.
In 1956 under the direction of Republican President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Administration, in an effort to clear up confusion created by contradictory information released by many non-government organizations, the government revised their guidelines to the “Basic Four” recommendation. Serving size recommendations were also added to promote portion control. The food groups in this document included:
3. Fruits and vegetables
4. Grain products
This would seem to make the most sense. Though it was a broad approach, knowing the basics of proper nutrition regarding consumption of all three macronutrients with consumption recommendations regarding specific vitamin and mineral and portion control this seemed to be a fairly simple approach to eating healthy.
Despite First Lady Michele Obama’s claim that they are not “trying to reinvent the wheel” facts prove otherwise for in 1953 under President Eisenhower’s Administration “The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports” was created. So I am a bit confused by Mrs Obama’s statements regarding her and President Obama’s “revolutionary new idea” about addressing the goal of fitness through combining proper nutrition with physical fitness.
Wouldn’t one think that by virtue of fact that President Eisenhower’s Administration already took this approach in the mid to late 1950’s, American adults and children would have managed to have a pretty firm grasp on proper nutrition and physical activity?
A 1967, a CBS documentary entitled “Hunger in America” exposed the extent of hunger and malnutrition among low income groups in the United States (Sorry Mrs Obama, but these newly found “food deserts” were around long before the current epidemic of childhood obesity that now plagues our already ailing health care system). Under the administration of Lyndon B Johnson, the Senate created the “Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs” in 1968 to address the public’s outcry spurned on by this documentary. The goal of this committee was to wipe out hunger and malnutrition in the United States. By 1969, the committee had claimed it had met its goals.
So what went wrong in the United States since 1967 (the year of my birth)?
The First Lady summarized the causes for the nation’s obesity epidemic up by saying, “It’s just been too hard for parents these days. They don’t have time to cook nutritious meals for their families anymore. It isn’t safe for children to play outdoors anymore. There are too many distractions for our children like video games and computers. Many people live in food deserts where families have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Is she serious?
My sister and I had seven children between the two of us (now ages 10 to 18). Funny, we didn’t have these problems nor did anyone else that we know suffer similarly. We told our children to go outside and play. So they went outside and played. We didn’t buy video games (though we could have afforded them were they important enough) and limited computer time. We found the time to cook for our families because we knew that processed and fast foods were garbage and nutritionally inferior; not to mention the fact that we couldn’t afford it.
The new government website lists places like Chicago and New York as being such “food desert” locations. I worked in New York for a few years. There was just as much fresh food available every couple of feet as there were hot dog vendors and fast food fried chicken places. Granted, I’ve lived in Texas for nearly four years, but I doubt that someone could have dropped a nuclear bomb on New York without my knowing about it.
I also have friends my age (40’s) who grew up in rural areas in Florida where the closest Piggly Wiggly was 24 miles away. Though we all remember ” that fat kid” most everybody made fun of neither of us recalls any that were morbidly obese nor did we remember any more than that one fat kid. In other words, there was no child-hood obesity epidemic 40 years ago.
So now two government administrations claim the same “food deserts” are a problem for malnutrition (which very well may be the case). However, one claims that hunger was the result while the other claims morbid childhood obesity is the result. That is physiologically impossible.
Seems to me like this is just more Obama Administration rhetoric designed to make it look like the people who the majority voted into office in 2008 are trying to justify their jobs with words, totally void of any helpful action. Mrs Obama’s comments referenced recent statistics during the press conference which confirm that the United States has a serious problem regarding childhood and adult obesity. These same statistics also show that theUnited States is over-fed yet under-nourished. So tell me, what has really changed since 1968 when Democratic President Johnson’s Administration claimed to have eliminated hunger and malnutrition in the United States? Clearly, hunger was impacted as we are now the most obese nation in the world. We have children who are afflicted with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, adult onset diabetes and other health complications that were predominantly issues that affect the population later in life. Our military has complained that for the first time ever they have a shortage of new recruits that can pass the physical test necessary to gain admission to the armed forces because they are too simply too fat.
Wouldn’t it be more helpful for the First Lady and her husband to focus on encouraging personal responsibility regarding physical activity and nutritional choices? Call me crazy, but KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) seems a better route.
I think it’s a good thing that The President and Mrs Obama have decided to reinforce the programs begun by their Republican predecessor, President Eisenhower over 50 years ago. Sadly the “improvements” that a few democratic administrations have made to the nutritional guidelines since then have achieved the total opposite as statistics referenced by Mrs Obama prove out.
I am hopeful that the Obama administration’s “new reinvention of President Eisenhower’s wheel” will include:
1. Promoting personal responsibility regarding the choices that Americans make regarding proper nutrition and physical fitness. So far I haven’t heard this but one can always hope.
2. Getting back to promoting basics of sound nutritional choices of all three macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate), especially promoting the benefits of consumption of EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids) without which it is impossible for the body to properly function.
3. Some sort of control on the negative media proliferation of unsafe, radical weight loss methods designed to promote weight loss at the cost of overall health.
We don’t need a laundry list of athletic celebrities or a team of personal chefs to tell us how to be fit and healthy. We just need sound basic nutritional guidelines and to be encouraged to be physically active as much as possible. Walking is free and better for the environment. I don’t care what Mrs Obama says, everyone can find the time to cook healthy meals and simply opt not to serve our families the processed, chemical-laden, fast foods that too many lazy Americans have come to feed their children so often. These choices are healthier for us not to mention better for our pocketbooks which the current administration has greatly affected. The nation as a whole would also greatly benefit if the government cracked down on all of those involved in the fitness, wellness and supplement industries that prey on the ever-increasing segment of overweight and obese who are desperate to lose weight at all costs.
Seems pretty simple to me, what do you think?