Michelle Obama: "Eating Healthy Isn't About How You Look"

The first lady and iVillage Guest Editor talks about the body image messages she tries to share with her girls, Malia, 14 and Sasha, 11, and how her focus isn't on being thin, it's on being healthy.

Today's theme is gardening and you might wonder how a conversation with First Lady Michelle Obama on body image fits in this section. Here's how it does. The first lady told us that when she talks to her girls, Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, she's very much focused on making them realize that eating well, which means eating plenty of vegetables, is not about being thin, but about being healthy.

"When we talk about these issues, we talk always in terms of health, not physical beauty," Mrs. Obama told me, after she pushed off her shoes and sat very relaxed on her office sofa in the East Wing of the White House.  "I try to keep that separate. And now that the girls are getting older, I'm much more direct about the separation -- that eating healthy isn't about how you look; it's about how you feel."

Watch more of our exclusive interview with Michelle Obama here:


As a fellow mom of two, I told Mrs. Obama that I often catch myself when I call my girls "beautiful," wanting to make the point that they are beautiful inside and out. The first lady said she and the president tell their girls they're beautiful all the time, as well as smart, funny, good at friendship, etc. "I don't think you can tell young girls that they're beautiful -- I don't think there's too much you could say that -- they just need to hear that," she said. "And I think they need to hear it from the men in their lives too." We agree!

My girls are still young but I am going to be thinking about what else Mrs. Obama told me she does with Malia and Sasha as my girls get older. "When I see body image being discussed, and we're looking at a magazine together, we'll stop and have that conversation and I'll see where they are," she said.  "I try to check their pulse ... 'What do you think about her? Do you think she's cute' or 'Why do you think she's cute? Why do you like her.' So I ask them alot of questions so I know how their brain is processing stuff, so that I'm not making assumptions."

Check back tomorrow for our in-depth conversation with Mrs. Obama on everything from how she and the president will handle Malia and Sasha's dating in the White House to whether she's had a mom crisis (she has!) to whether she thinks women can truly have it all!

Kelly Wallace is chief correspondent of iVillage. Follow her on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

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