Marilynn Preston

Posted 06/14/2012 - 12:03

Original status by Marilynn Preston: (Here's a recent column I wrote about Michelle Obama's recent book tour, and her bold campaign to get the country thinking about toxic food, fat sedentary kids, and the value and grace of being involved in a garden. I'm embarrassed at the way kids have been treated in the U.S. We took away gym, fed them crap in school lunchrooms, hooked them on small screen media ( 7-plus hours a day!) and now we wonder why they're sick and underperforming? I'll post others as time goes on but you'll find more columns on my syndicate website,


The Garden of Eatin’ and How It Helps Our Nation’s Bottom Line

The first lady has a second job. She’s working overtime to inspire kids and adults to grow and eat better, real, less toxic food. She even has a new book out called “American Grown,” which has her on the road, making the media rounds, cheerleading for the growing movement of school and community gardens across the country, while calmly reminding us that kids in the U.S. are growing fatter and getting sicker.
Line up three kids today (with or without triple-scoop Chunky Monkey cones in their hands), and one of them is bound to be seriously overweight. Childhood obesity is a public health crisis of massive proportions. If current trends continue, Disney World will sink.
The cost to the kid is heavy -- poor health, bad body image, bullying. And the cost to the country in terms of rising medical bills is staggering. Current, troubling studies show that more and more kids are turning up at doctors’ offices with Type 2 diabetes (the kind usually seen in adults) or pre-diabetes, and growing numbers also have early signs of heart disease.
That’s great news if you’re a pharmaceutical company in the promising new business of making drugs for kids. But it’s very painful news if you’re a mom or dad or alert citizen. Early onset chronic diseases destroy wellness, not to mention national economies. We want our kids to grow up strong, fit and happy. Democrat or Republican, independent or co-dependent , I think we can all agree that helping our kids live a healthier lifestyle makes terrific sense.
Wrong. Good sense has been removed from the equation. Over the last 40 years, our schools have done the opposite. They cut out gym, fed kids lousy food and junky drinks in school lunchrooms, and did nothing to keep them from getting addicted to small-screen media. (“Seven-and-a-half hours a day!” the first lady told “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart, who satirically used the golden opportunity to push for 10.)
Conditions are slowly improving. School lunchrooms are reforming. It’s too little, too late for tons of kids, but better late than never for others. The first lady’s anti-obesity campaign -- based at -- is alive and well-intentioned, and it all began just a few months after she and the mister moved into the White House. Mrs. Obama -- who, like me, grew up on the south side of Chicago -- couldn’t help noticing how much land came with her new house ... more than enough for a garden.
Why a garden? Because Michelle Obama knows that growing food is linked to growing consciousness about food. Unless and until they are taught, kids don’t really connect to the concept that real food is grown in the earth. Once they experience that connection -- by planting, cultivating, harvesting, tasting -- something clicks, Mother Nature does her thing, and the next thing you know your kids are ordering broccoli and spinach instead of fries and Cokes.
It’s not guaranteed, but significant behavior changes have been noted. Other good ways to get your kids to experience a shift in how they think about food is to get them involved in shopping, reading labels and one of the great game changers, cooking.
“Let’s move,” the first lady is fond of saying. “Let’s get it done.”
What if you and your kids don’t have land to plant a garden? Dig into the new gardening section on, learn about the more than 700 community and school gardens around the country, and discover how you can grow tasty food in small pots and tiny spaces.
Have you ever tasted a real tomato the same day it come in from the garden? It’s a kind of food bliss, and I’ve been there when real kids have had their epiphany.
“I never knew broccoli could taste this good!”
“I thought tomatoes came in cans.”
“Is this what a strawberry tastes like?”
Michele Obama’s White House garden -- the one she features in “American Grown” -- has grown into a symbol of the kind of hope and change we were told would happen when her husband’s administration began.
Who knew we’d have to look to the South Lawn to see some of the best fruits?

“What’s wrong with us? This is the land of plenty, and we haven’t even achieved type 3 diabetes yet!” -- Stephen Colbert

Marilynn Preston -- fitness expert, wellness coach and speaker on healthy lifestyle issues -- is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at