What Michelle Obama Can Teach You About Prioritizing Your Health

By Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor, The White House

First Lady Michelle Obama joins students for the “Let’s Move!” spring garden planting in the White House Kitchen Garden, April 5, 2016.(Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

Whether it’s a challenging situation that arises at work or an appliance breaks at home, or one of the countless other things on your to-do list at any point in time, it can seem almost impossible to make time for your health.

Going to the gym before work. Making a home-cooked meal for the family. Getting eight hours of glorious sleep. Turning all your morning meetings into walking meetings so you reach your daily goal for steps by noon.

That all seems quite nice, but come on, who has the time? And when there is so much to do, isn’t it selfish to do something for my own well-being?

Quite the opposite. In order to be at your best for work, family, friends, and life in general, you need to feel your best, and that comes with prioritizing your health.

Case in point: I know a busy working mother of two young daughters with an equally busy husband. She easily could have made excuses about why she didn’t have time to lead a healthy life, but she didn’t. Instead, she made intentional changes for herself and her family. Rather than looking at working out as a chore, she saw it as an investment in herself. She dutifully made time for physical activity before work, made small changes to her family’s meal routine, and started to really understand that she needed to take care of herself so that she had the energy and ability to be there for her family.

This woman is Michelle Obama.

Acknowledging the importance of prioritizing health and the difference it made for her and her family, she then dedicated nearly seven years of her platform as First Lady of the United States to helping kids and families lead healthier lives through her Let’s Move! initiative. She made impactful progress through innovative programs, partnerships, and policies that were about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years; giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices; providing healthier foods in our schools; ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food; and helping children become more physically active.

Mrs. Obama prioritizes her health and shows us by example the incredible value in investing in your own well-being. She also shows the fun you can have in the process by finding activities you can enjoy with family and friends.

If each of us commit to investing in our own health, we too can lead by example and help others follow suit, creating an unstoppable movement. The impact this can have is significant, and it is needed because the statistics are staggering.

By 2018, we’ll be spending nearly $350 billion a year treating obesity-related conditions, and by 2030, those conditions could cost more than half a trillion dollars — that’s more than our entire federal deficit. For a reasonable investment today, we can prevent hundreds of billions of dollars of costs down the road. A lifetime of delicious greens not only costs less than quadruple bypass surgery, it can be delicious.

So right now, take a moment and check your use of time. The next time you hang out with friends, can you go for a walk or to an exercise class? What healthier alternatives can you swap in for breakfast? Can you set a daily alarm to remind you when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep? Think about how much time you spent browsing the internet or on social media yesterday and what you could be doing instead. You see where I’m going.

What little changes can you commit to today to invest in your health tomorrow? Your health and well-being is a priority. I think you deserve to feel great and be healthy. I hope you do too, and I hope you help others recognize that simple fact as well. As Mrs. Obama said, “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to-do’ list.”