TODAY   |  February 03, 2010

Michelle Obama: Obesity is ‘solvable’

In an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Matt Lauer, first lady Michelle Obama addresses her commitment to helping American families achieve healthy lifestyles and combat childhood obesity.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

male announcer: being yourself.

>>> we're back now at 8:08 with more of our exclusive interview with first lady michelle obama . we had the chance to talk to her about a number of topics, including her new initiative to fight childhood obesity and how her husband juggles the pressures of the presidency with everyday family life .

>> he is still an optimistic person at heart. he doesn't bring the problems of the oval office to the residence.

>> and you like that. you like the fact that there's a separation between what happens in that office during the day and the family quarters.

>> well, i think that's part of the challenge in the lines that you have to draw when you live above the shop, as they say.

>> right.

>> we do it mostly for our kids, you know, so that they have a normal family environment. and i think it's also a pressure reducer for us. when you sit around the dinner table, you walk into the door and everything goes away except for what's right before you -- your kids, their issues, their challenges, their questions.

>> you said something recently, and i liked it as the father of three kids, and two of mine are close to the age of malia and sasha. you said one of my greatest accomplishments over the last year is that my kids are sane, and they are the same kids today that they were when they moved to the white house . how much of an effort did that take, or has it taken?

>> it's taken a great deal of effort and focus. it's been important to me their entire lives, because you don't just arrive at the presidency. i mean, there's a long pathway of sort of interesting life decisions that go along with it. so, barack and i have always been mindful that we want to make sure that the choices we make as adults, as parents, don't negatively affect our kids' lives, so that's --

>> is it impossible for this choice to not negatively impact them in some way?

>> right now it feels good, you know. little kids, you're just hoping that you're not messing them up, right? and we only know the outcome when they're 25 and out of the house and living decently, right?

>> right.

>> so, i, you know, i make no claims this early, but they seem like they're doing great.

>> you've just taken on a new initiative, and it's right up your alley not only as first lady, but as a mom, and that is the issue of childhood obesity , which is a real problem in this country. why did you decide that that would be an issue you wanted to get involved with?

>> well, there are the shocking statistics that are there. one in three kids are obese in this nation. the most shocking sort of reality that really hits you, that because of these statistics, the youngest generation is on track for the first time in this nation's history of being less healthy, having a shorter lifespan than their parents. you know, when we're talking about the future, we are talking about the health of our kids, but i also know as a mom, i can see how we got there or some of how we got there. i can see how the burdens and pressures of modern day life just really -- we live differently.

>> you mean, as a working mom, feeding your own girls before the white house ?

>> right, exactly. it is very hard when you're working, you're trying to get kids to activities, you're tired, you're stressed, to come home and even know how to prepare a three-course, healthy meal or have the time or the energy to do it. and slowly, we start making choices, kids stop walking, there's fewer opportunities to play, more computer time --

>> more stops at the fast-food --

>> more stops, and before you know it, you have a problem. so, it's not that parents don't care. it's just that we've got to help them.

>> i'm glad to hear you say that you're not pointing the finger of blame, because i think parents feel so guilty.

>> oh, gosh.

>> you start talking about the health of their kids --

>> that's right.

>> -- and those working parents you just talking about, some are working two jobs.

>> absolutely.

>> they're working overtime to make ends meet.

>> absolutely.

>> they're saying i'm doing the best i can and i don't need someone holding me up as an example.

>> absolutely right, and i certainly wouldn't have responded well to it because we all love our kids. this is intimately solvable. this isn't going to require new technology. we don't have to put a man on the moon.

>> when you say it's solvable, you don't want to just talk about it, you want to see some results. so, at the end of three years, or if you're lucky enough, seven years, if that rate is 33% today of children who are either overweight or obese, what can you knock that down to? what's your goal?

>> well, we're still working on benchmarks, because we want to have ambitious goals, but we want to have attainable goals. our broad goal is going to be to change the health status of an entire generation.

>> i read that around the family dinner table you go through roses and thorns --

>> yeah.

>> okay, so, roses and thorns, for the people out there who don't know, you basically say what good thing happened to me today and what bad thing happened to me today. so, what's the best thing that happened to you today and what's the worst thing?

>> oh, wow. well, the best thing is always dinner time , so it hasn't happened yet. but you know, we had a series of very good conversations around the lunch, meetings with folks who were really ready to roll up their sleeves in a non-partisan way and do something for our kids, and that's a big rose.

>> what's a thorn ?

>> i haven't had a thorn yet. well, i walked upstairs and my daughter had an issue, you know, and it wasn't a big issue, but i'm coming up, changing and --

>> school issue, friend issue?

>> right. it's just, you know, and of course, you're like, what is the matter? you're not happy? but you know, if i had to pick a thorn , it would be that, but it really doesn't rise to the level of a thorn .

>> a tiny little thorn .

>> right. it's a really itty-bitty thorn .

>> see, she wasn't being very honest there --

>> you thought the thorn would be my interview?

>> right there.

>> i know you. what's your rose and thorn so far?

>> being here with you, both.

>> it's not even worth the