by Marion Nestle
Jan 3 2011

Bipartisan support for obesity prevention?

To my pleasant surprise, editorial writers in the conservative press defended Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign against attacks by even more conservative critics (I’m still catching up with what I missed on vacation).

December 26 Washington Post: Op-ed: “How did obesity become a partisan fight?, by Fred Hiatt , editorial page editor:

Well, yes, if Michelle Obama is for it, someone will be against it. Someone like Glenn Beck, for example, who was moved to rail against carrot sticks, or Sarah Palin, who warned that Obama wants to deprive us all of dessert.

And when you look a little deeper, it’s not surprising that a crusade seemingly beyond questioning would become a political battle.

Interests that might feel threatened by Let’s Move include the fast-food industry, agribusiness, soft-drink manufacturers, real estate developers (because suburban sprawl is implicated), broadcasters and their advertisers (of sugary cereals and the like), and the oil-and-gas and automotive sectors (because people ought to walk more and drive less).

Throw in connections to the health-care debate (because preventive services will be key to controlling the epidemic), race (because of differential patterns of obesity) and red state-blue state hostilities (the reddest states tend to be the fattest), and it turns out there are few landmines that Michelle Obama didn’t trip by asking us all to shed a few pounds.

Hiatt’s piece ends with “It’s not going to be easy,” Michelle Obama says. She’s right – but also right to keep pushing.”

December 27 Wall Street Journal: Editorial: “Palin’s Food Fight.”

President Obama’s indiscriminate expansion of federal power has inspired a healthy populist rebellion, but his opponents sometimes seem to lose their sense of proportion. Take Sarah Palin’s mockery of Michelle Obama’s childhood antiobesity campaign.

The first lady has emphasized more nutritious school lunches but mostly encourages parents to make sure their kids eat healthy and exercise. Mrs. Palin sees a big government plot.

…No one hates the nanny state more than we do, but Mrs. Obama isn’t exactly ordering up Lenin’s Young Pioneers. Adults do have an obligation to teach children how to live, and that includes adults who are role models by dint of their national prominence….Telling kids to eat their vegetables and run around the block is merely instructing them to take responsibility for their own choices.

With this kind of support, real progress is possible.  How’s that for an optimistic note on which to start the new year?