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President Obama and First Lady Take Health Personally

Health care isn’t just an abstract policy for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama — it’s a real issue that has affected their lives. The Obamas opened up in the October issues of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, respectively, about their personal experiences with health and fitness as the health care debate rages on.

“Even when I was a community organizer — I was paid $13,000 a year — I benefited from the fact that the guy who hired me insisted that I get health care as part of the package,” Pres. Obama reveals. “And, you know, at the age of 24, 25, you think you’re immortal. So I was thinking to myself, boy, I could use that money to pay the rent. But he was very firm about everybody having health care, and I think that he did me a great service during that time.”

It’s not just about receiving health care after you need medical attention, but also working fitness and a healthy lifestyle into your life, the president explains as he discusses the so-called war on obesity in America.

“Well, first of all, I don’t think it’s a war. As I said, my mother struggled with weight — and I know that some of it was just genetic. But part of it was she grew up in a generation where, unfortunately, women weren’t always encouraged to be athletically active,” he says. “She didn’t get into those early habits that my daughters are already in, because they play soccer and are consistently active. So it’s an example of how socialization can make a difference, particularly with our kids.”

Michelle explains her own views in Women’s Health.

“The American people remember the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Health insurance reform must make health care more than just sick care,” says Michelle. “[It] must improve the health of our nation by investing in critical prevention and wellness initiatives that help keep Americans healthy and out of the hospital in the first place.”

Michelle adds that her parents influenced her views on eating junk food as a special occasion, and not an everyday occasion.

“We couldn’t afford to go out to dinner, so [it] was a rare treat. We would have a theater class on Saturdays, and [afterward] if Dad turned left we were going to McDonald’s, and if he turned right we were going home, and we’d always go, ‘Go left, Dad! Go left!’ The few times he went left, it was like Christmas! And we got pizza on report card day. That was a reward, pizza. Dessert was given sparingly. We would get ice cream, three little pints, and we would eat out of those for days. You’d get little scoops: Here, you get a little chocolate, you get a little butter pecan, and that would be it. Those values—even though they were the result of economic circumstances—were really good, and they created some pretty healthy boundaries about food.”

The issues hit stands Sept. 15.

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