Sarah Palin Takes on Nutritional Advocacy Programs

Discussion
Dec 22, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has lately been ridiculing
government-led healthy-eating initiatives as just another example of government’s
reckless intrusion into Americans’ lives. Her target has particularly been
the "Let’s Move" program
led by First Lady Michelle Obama that encourages families and schools to get
active and eat healthier.

On her outdoors-themed show, "Sarah Palin’s Alaska," this
past Sunday on The Learning Network, she was seen searching her cabinets for
the ingredients for s’mores — graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.

"This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should
not have desert," Ms. Palin reportedly said.

Several news reports assumed
Ms. Palin was referring to Ms. Obama’s address in September before the Congressional
Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference in which the First Lady said, "The
problem is when things get out of balance, when dessert is practically a food
group."

This marked the second time the former governor of Alaska had
taken on Ms. Obama and the "Let’s Move" program.

"Take her anti-obesity thing that she is on. She is on this kick, right," Ms.
Palin said in November on the Laura Ingraham radio show, according to CBS
News
. "What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make
decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should
eat. … Just leave us alone, get off our back."

The Daily News noted that the "Let’s Move" program does not
ban desserts although it does suggest cutting back on sugar. The article also
noted that studies show that one-third of U.S. children are overweight or obese,
increasing the likelihood of diabetes and other diseases. In defending Ms.
Obama, The Daily News noted that she has planted a vegetable garden at the
White House and led exercise classes for kids while also admitting to her own
weakness for sweets. She told the Ladies’ Home Journal, "What is
life without the things you love to eat? For me, it’s pie."

The anti-obesity
campaign has also been championed by Republicans such as California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, and Ms. Obama has appeared on the Fox News program
hosted by former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Still, the "Let’s
Go" program has become fodder for other Republicans

"Get away from my French fries, Mrs. Obama," Fox News’ Glenn
Beck recently declared, according to The Washington Post. "First
politician that comes up to me with a carrot stick, I’ve got a place for it.
And it’s not in my tummy."

Discussion Questions: What’s the likelihood that government-led anti-obesity
efforts will increasingly loom as a measurable political issue in the future?
When do government-led nutrition programs cross the line into becoming overly-intrusive
in American’s lives?

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19 Comments on "Sarah Palin Takes on Nutritional Advocacy Programs"


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Joan Treistman
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

If you or anyone else in your immediate circle has tried to combat obesity, you know how difficult it is. Think about the money spent on quick and long term diet books, aids and food programs. So much of our eating habits begin in childhood.

As a one person advocate for healthier kids who grow to be hopefully healthier adults Michelle Obama has taken on a cause that helps individuals and all of us who care about out of control health care expenses. If kids with poor eating habits grow up to be diabetics suffer high blood pressure and other cardio problems, the rest of us suffer the economic results…while those ailing adults just plain suffer.

I think the attempt to stem the tide of obesity is an admiral cause. I think that mocking it is not. Further, mocking Michelle Obama’s health initiative shows a lack of understanding the health care issues this country faces.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

This is the old argument for personal choice against things that could kill you or your children: seatbelts, cigarettes and motorcycle helmets. Smart marketers have already adapted their messages to try and deal with childhood obesity from McDonald’s to retailers. Not sure how “be fat and lazy” would do as a tagline–Sarah Palin endorsement notwithstanding.

Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

I’ll try to keep my personal politics out of it, except to say in defense of Michelle Obama that the White House served twelve kinds of pies for Thanksgiving. (And in the interest of equal time, I do like s’mores.)

The fact is that obesity is a literally growing problem in America, with serious long-term consequences for public policy and the cost of health care. The challenge for Washington is to “do the right thing” without appearing to overreach, which has been an issue for the past couple of years. But to avoid confronting the problem won’t make it go away, especially if there are sensible ways to modify behavior. Let’s agree (if possible) that obesity and its consequences are real issues, not to be treated for cheap political gain.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
Government led nutrition programs are only intrusive when they dictate what I or my family can eat. As long as they only affect everyone else, it’s not a problem. Unlike other countries, it seems our most overweight people are our poorest people who claim they do not have access to food. Someone in Ethiopia would probably find that absurd. Personal freedom advocates are generally wealthier and have healthier lifestyles. They don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Nutrition advocates have well meaning ideas, however, it’s going to be hard to change those with food addictions to fat and sugar just as it has been to get people not to smoke. There will never be a compromise as long as taxpayer dollars are being used to promote good nutrition. Conservatives believe in bringing poor nutrition on to themselves and the government should not be involved. Nutrition advocates believe that too many people just don’t have the wherewithal to make personal food choices and the government should be doing it for them. It’s too much intrusion… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
Let’s face it, its likely that there is no middle ground when it comes to Sarah. Folks either love her or hate her. Hate is a strong word, but it applies in this case. Nevertheless, there is no middle ground whatsoever. From my view the difference is the perception in this issue because it is an issue between left and right. Between the two there is a huge, if not massive, difference in perception. The perception from the right is that the left believes they know better what’s good for you and that you are incapable of making decisions for yourself or your family on your own. From the left, the perception is that government regulation, legislation or otherwise is not evil–it is good. However, for those involved, the perception is ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Neither on the soap box are great examples. Mr. Obama, unable to quit smoking, derides those who do or goes out for fried food on television and asking all to ‘Don’t tell Michelle’. Mrs. Obama told… Read more »
Ben Ball
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Since the competing POVs here both come from women who are obviously quite fit, one would conclude it comes down to their competing “world view.”

As for the question of “when is government intervention too much?” it seems to me the line is quite simple. When we move from unfunded endorsement and encouragement to funded programming, we put one foot on the slippery slope. When we cross the line into regulation, we are sliding down hill on our backsides with no hope of breaking our fall. Happy landing!

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As someone already suggested, when it comes to any issue or topic, it already gets tainted one way or the other, just because Sarah Palin’s name is in the headline. It’s better if someone else tackles this issue with regards to government involvement in diet, health care, and the public interest.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

As someone said the issue of government programs dictating what people eat could be an issue. However, government paid programs certainly have the authority of choosing healthy food on which their money will be spent.

The issue is also a free speech issue. Michelle Obama is free to recommend her choice of what people should eat just as Sarah Palin is free to recommend her choice of what people should eat as is everyone else. That needs to continue to be true.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Politics aside, the FDA should shoulder responsibility in this debate as their ever-changing guidelines for product labeling and disclosure, in my opinion, make it more difficult for Americans to understand how to manage their dietary intake.

In addition, the steady stream of nutritional advice with conflicting recommendations is confusing to many people. For example, we have heard that red wine, chocolate, caffeine, and low fat items are alternatively good for us and destructive to our diets.

I’ve always viewed the nutritional landscape as one that can be simplified through a big dose of common sense. Limiting processed foods and eating a varied diet in moderation is a good start. Drinking the right amount of water daily helps. Eating a significant portion of our calories via a drive-in is probably not productive.

All of that advice is part of both Obama and Palin’s message if you cut through the politics.

Jack Pansegrau
Guest
Jack Pansegrau
10 years 4 months ago

Obesity is a major problem–especially in the USA. We lead the world with 31% of the population obese, followed by Mexico [24%], UK [23%] in the Top Three…Canada at 14% ranks 11th at the ‘average’ with France 23rd at 9.4% and Japan/ROK at 3.2%. And this is simply obesity–if one adds those among us that are ‘overweight’, the numbers double to nearly 2 out of 3 Americans. And now with children reaching these levels–obesity and our diet is truly a national issue that deserves attention.

No one can deny the harmful health effects of obesity. And with the barrage of false and misleading claims by ‘Food, Inc’–it makes it virtually impossible for most of us to choose healthful options.

Romania has a Junk Food VAT and both France and the UK have considered imposing as much as a 3x increase in VAT for Junk Foods.

Michelle Obama stops far short of any formal government action or taxation, so “…where’s the beef…?” IMHO Michelle Obama should be encouraged for taking on the weighty issue.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
Although this argument does seem to be about left v right, rich v poor, government intervention v personal freedom, it really shouldn’t be about any of those things. Offering advice, which people are free to accept or reject, makes a great deal of sense to me. Although there are guidelines as to school nutrition (which I believe is right in a country where education is free for all), no one is yet banning other food from sale. Telling people about the possible outcome of making poor choices also seems sensible to me. Especially when the cost of healthcare is so outrageously high and everyone has to pay for that. Even in a system where each individual is allegedly responsible for the cost of their own healthcare, there is a huge impact on everyone else. Virtually everyone in the food industry has accepted that some change is needed whether there is widespread agreement about the extent and speed or not. They have also accepted that they bear a certain obligation to their customers to avoid excess… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Like Alice (must…control…fist…of…death) from Dilbert, I’ll try to keep quiet on my personal views on Ms. Palin’s hearing problems. First Ladies have traditionally championed some noble cause (Nancy Reagan had drug abuse, Lady Bird Johnson had billboards, Grace Coolidge, IIRC wanted to upgrade the White House place settings, etc.) so Michelle Obama’s activities can hardly be considered either novel or disturbing. And if this were the extent of government activities on the matter, it would be a non-issue; but obviously the broader issue here is people’s health, and more specifically who should pay to maintain it: there are three groups in this country – those who make good choices, those who make bad choices but are willing to suffer the consequences, and those who make bad choices but AREN’T so willing… as long as the latter group is significant, government paternalism – or worse – will be an issue.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
10 years 4 months ago

I read recently that something like only five states still have mandatory PE classes in schools. Even then, opt outs are frequent for schedule conflicts, etc. Gee, ya think the lack of exercise may have something to do with the rise of obesity?

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 4 months ago

Government can take a role in promoting healthy living just as the food industry can and should. One example-improving school lunches with healthier choices is government’s responsibility as they set the standards.

Michelle Obama is a visible and needed advocate for healthy living which focuses on food and physical activity. Getting people (especially kids) aware of where food comes from and encouraging schools to incorporate more physical activity in their programs is important. Obesity is a huge and growing problem for our country as well as globally. Meeting with Chief Executives of the food industry fosters more innovation and information sharing. I see nothing wrong with that.

Many parents are looking for advice and helpful ways to incorporate healthier choices in meal preparation, snacks and bag lunches in their everyday lives. Many retailers, manufacturers as well as government sources provide this information. But many more efforts are needed.

I applaud Michelle Obama’s efforts. After all, not everyone can go bear hunting in Alaska for exercise.

Kris Medford
Guest
Kris Medford
10 years 4 months ago

Although there has been mention that low income people in the US are also the most overweight, I am surprised that no one has dove into any of the reasons for why that is the case. Because they just like to eat more? Not that simple… Bad-but-tasty food is cheap and accessible, especially in low income areas. You can get a complete meal, albeit an unhealthy one, that will make you and your kids happy for just a few dollars at a fast food chain–or you can spend more time and money (both often in short supply) and make healthy meals at home.

In my opinion, believing that the issue of obesity is merely about free-will food choice is naive.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
10 years 4 months ago
I have no problem whatsoever with promoting healthful eating, or any other meritorious issue. To me, this is not the issue, but rather as I commented in a letter to the editor of a food industry publication 40 years ago, there are too many people who, on failing to persuade, adopt the attitude, then let’s force the ignorant boobs. This attitude seems to emanate from a particular political stream, and is often supported by the intellectual class. But this is also a bit of the root problem: For most of a century the nutrition problem has been dealt with as an education problem, as if the root cause of poor HABITS is poor information. The reality is that habits are NOT notably based on intellectual information, so the frustration and turning to force is perhaps understandable, as odious and unacceptable as it is to the fundamental concept of America. I suggested an approach, based on training habits, to a nutrition conference affiliated with Michelle Obama’s initiative, earlier this year, and am part of a RAND… Read more »
John Karolefski
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

Yes, there is an obesity problem in the country. Yes, children are at risk for health issues if their bad habits are not corrected. And nobody should quibble with Mrs. Obama’s good intentions.

But there should be more focus on personal and parental responsibility and less focus on the government and more regulations as the cure for every problem or issue.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 4 months ago
As usual, Scanner placed the emphasis precisely where it belongs: Not on Sarah but on Michelle and the administration’s politics. Those of you who dislike Sarah, get over it and see if you can focus on the issue. This isn’t about Palin. If you support Michelle’s anti-obesity and gardening initiatives, why would you have to rely on Palin-bashing to do so? Can’t you find any positives? I’m a grocer at heart, and many of Michelle’s “explanations” of her so-called “non-controlling” anti-obesity program scare the socks off of me and like-minded buddies. Try these on for size: February 16, 2010: The Let’s Move! website defined a “food desert” as a place where a grocery store is more than a mile away. Laura Ingraham asks, “Isn’t obesity mostly a behavioral and lifestyle-related problem? Is it really an issue of people’s proximity of ‘healthy food?’ Does the First Lady ever consider the possibility that the grocery stores that closed in Detroit, L.A., and Newark, etc., did so because they weren’t profitable? Or that the areas had become so… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 4 months ago

All you have to do is walk around Disney World or your local mall to see how many obese people there are in this country. Everyone pays the price for this and part of the problem is a lack of education, in addition to common sense.

We just had dinner at a very nice restaurant in New York City and it was really interesting to see the calorie counts on the menu. While we didn’t necessarily like it, it did impact what we ordered and yet we still enjoyed our meal.

More information is better, particularly when it comes to one’s health. It’s clearly going to take some government intervention here, politics notwithstanding.

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