Barack And Michelle Obama Taught Sasha And Malia Body Positivity Through Example

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama have always been candid about their personal struggles. In her 2022 book, "The Light We Carry," Michelle revealed that on some days, she struggled with body image issues to the point where she couldn't stand looking at herself in the mirror. When Michelle sat down with Oprah Winfrey for the 2020 Vision: Your Life in Focus tour, she said that throughout Barack's presidential campaign, she received tons of negative comments about her body. 

Michelle admitted that as a Black woman, she was already made to believe she wasn't beautiful enough, and those comments gravely affected her. It took a lot of time and effort, but eventually, she learned to thank her body for everything it did instead of judging it for the way it looked. She further explained that her father faced several hardships because of his disability, and understanding his perspective only exemplified her love for her body because she knew he would never complain about having one like hers.

But her daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama had a hard time accepting body changes as they grew older. Michelle shared the beautiful way in which she approaches the topic with them: "I told my daughters because as they're getting older they start to judge themselves and it's interesting when they talk about, 'I can't fit in my jeans that I had last year.' I said, 'But you're a whole other year older. You're now becoming a woman. You don't have a child's body.'"

Barack Obama appreciates Michelle's body to send a positive image to their daughters

When Barack Obama sat down with Misty Copeland for a Time interview in 2016, he got candid about watching his daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, deal with beauty standards. Barack stated that he only understood the true dangers of societal beauty standards after having daughters. The former president said that although all women have to grapple with expectations, it's always been tougher for Black women, explaining, "It's part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance."

Naturally, he and Michelle Obama wanted to protect their daughters from being subjected to this harsh criticism, so they modeled a healthy and loving relationship that wasn't tied down to beauty standards. Barack elaborated, "The fact that they've got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful." Barack was thankful that society had come a long way in broadening its perception of beauty because now young children could see themselves represented in popular people of their culture. 

While acknowledging how far they'd come from his childhood days, Barack also said that he knew the journey wasn't close to its finish. He revealed that Malia often told him that the haircare products tailored for her weren't nearly as affordable or effective as the more widely available options on the market.

Michelle Obama focuses on a well-balanced diet solely for her well-being

In a 2010 campaign event, Michelle Obama talked about childhood obesity by using her family as an example. The former First Lady shared that after her daughters' pediatrician appointment, the doctor recommended keeping a close eye on their weight because their BMI wasn't optimal. At the time, she received a lot of flak for thinking that BMI was an indicator of good health, but she later shared different sentiments that better expressed what she meant.

Speaking to iVillage in 2012, Michelle explained how she approached healthy eating with young Sasha and Malia Obama, "When we talk about these issues, we always talk in terms of health, not physical beauty." She explained, "I try to keep that separate. [...] Eating healthy isn't how you look but how you feel. We talk about what foods your body needs to sustain itself." She continued by sharing that she taught them the building blocks of a healthy meal that would help them get through the day instead of what would make them fit into a beauty standard. 

Michelle said that she and Barack Obama consistently complimented their daughters' physical and mental attributes to help them feel more secure. She also understood that external influences were equally important, so whenever she looked at a magazine with Malia and Sasha, she asked them how they felt about the models and why they felt that way. Michelle often played some childlike games like hula hooping to make exercising seem less intimidating to her kids.