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SIMMONS: Leave fitness to families

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2010

They all weighed in this week. President Obama. First lady Michelle Obama. Private industry.

They are training their sights on childhood obesity with a coordinated battle of the bulge.

The question is: What will parents do?

American children are spuds to the couch potato generation. As television screens in family basements and great rooms grow larger, waistlines, thighs and derrieres follow suit. After all, what's a body to do?

Leave it to the Obama administration to dip into an area where it has no business. The president whipped out his official pen yesterday to sign an official White House memo — ahem: memorandum that says the federal government "is committed to redoubling our efforts to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation through a comprehensive approach that builds on effective strategies, engages families and communities, and mobilizes both public and private sector resources."

Call me naive, but when Washington pledges to redouble its efforts to solve health, education or welfare issues, it's time to clip the purse strings and hide cash in the Caymans.

Look, we know we're overweight, and we know why.

Physical education and gym class? No longer mandatory.

Home economics and health education? No longer mandatory.

If we're not careful, the next generation of children the very ones the Obamas et al are targeting will not only be fat but fat and wimpy.

Kids can play football and hockey but not dodgeball. Dodgeball is too violent, critics cry.

Kids can play smash-mouth video games for hours on end and listen to sexed-up music, but the game of tag is banned from school playgrounds and community recreation centers. Tag is too violent, critics say.

Mrs. Obama, who is admirable for opening the White House to youthful gardeners and a melange of chefs and cooks, sounded sincere Tuesday when she spoke with Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" about the high stakes.

But Mrs. Obama and the president turned me into a cuticle-biting Nervous Nellie when they said they want to "eliminate … childhood obesity in a generation."

"We want to eliminate this problem of childhood obesity in a generation. We want to get that done," she said. "We want our kids to face a different and more optimistic future in terms of their lifespan."

Let's see. The economy sucks. If the Democrats have their way the overweight kids we're concerned about today won't have a job tomorrow. Oh, stop. I could go on and on. The first lady made two additional points.

"We all know the numbers," Mrs. Obama said. "I mean, one in three kids are overweight or obese, and we're spending $150 billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses. So we know this is a problem, and there's a lot at stake."

For his part, Mr. Obama did something no other American president has done: He created the first-ever federal task force to combat childhood obesity. (Silly me for wondering whatever happened to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.)

Press releases flew into e-mail in-boxes from private companies and nonprofits announcing their eagerness to partner with the Obama administration and its "very ambitious" undertaking.

But holy Fritos and RC Cola. Good government intentions have yet to produce the results the Obamas are seeking.

School breakfast feeding programs, lunch programs and after-school programs. America's youngsters are getting three free hots (as if they're jailbirds).

Some children are overweight because they are ill, and some are overweight because they think a healthy meal is adding pineapple or broccoli to pizza. Many a child is overweight because the only things they routinely exercise are their fingers and thumbs.

Whatever the reason, the government didn't create the problem and it's not the government's to solve.

It's a family thing.

Children who are able need to rip and run outdoors. Just ask any parent in the Mid-Atlantic region who has been snowbound indoors with youths.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com