Michelle Obama, 45, shows off her stunning style in a blue beaded Jason Wu dress on the cover of the November issue of Prevention. In the interview, the health-conscious First Lady shares a few of her diet and exercise secrets, and reveals how she’s trying to instill a healthy lifestyle in her daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8.
On what she learned from her own mom about balance: “I think my mother taught me what not to do. She put us first, always, sometimes to the detriment of herself. She encouraged me not to do that. She’d say being a good mother isn’t all about sacrificing; it’s really investing and putting yourself higher on your priority list. You can be a good mom and still work out, get your rest, have a career – or not. She encouraged me to find that balance.”
On making her health a priority: “I’ve always been a closet jock, but when I got married and had kids, that fell by the wayside. My ‘aha’ moment came when our first daughter, Malia, was 4 months old. My husband’s exercise routine hadn’t changed a bit; he was still getting his workouts in, and I was getting irritated (laughs). Then I realized he was just prioritizing it differently. So I said, ‘If I get up and out before the first feeding, I will work out.’ That will engage my husband to do that first feeding with the baby. So I started getting up at 4:30 in the morning and going to the gym. With exercising, the more you do it, the more you get into it. And the more you see results, the more you’re pushing for the next level. That’s when it just clicked for me.”
On the importance of happiness: “Throughout my life, I’ve learned to make choices that make me happy and make sense for me. Even my husband is happier when I’m happy. He has always said, ‘You figure out what you want to do,’ because he’s discovered that personal happiness is connected to everything. So I have freed myself to put me on the priority list and say, yes, I can make choices that make me happy, and it will ripple and benefit my kids, my husband, and my physical health. That’s hard for women to own; we’re not taught to do that. It’s a lesson that I want to teach my girls so they don’t wait for their ‘aha’ moment until they’re in their 30s like I was (laughs). Maybe they can experience it a little earlier.”
On her personal definition of happiness: “You know, happiness for me really is when my kids are good and when my family is whole. Moving [to the White House], whatever stresses would be on my husband and me, we could handle; we are grown-ups. But it wouldn’t be until the day that my kids came home and said to me, ‘I like it here,’ that I’d feel like I could breathe and know that we’re all going to be okay here. And that happened very early into the year. My happiness is measured against theirs – when they’re in a good place, I feel really good.”
On passing healthy habits on to her daughters: “I try to have no absolute nos. I love french fries, I like a good burger, and I like pie. And that’s okay. I would be depressed if I felt I could never eat the things that I love. I also don’t want my girls to be obsessed about food. We don’t have a ‘no junk food’ rule – I just want them to think about their choices. When my older daughter asks, ‘Can I have pie?’ I’ll say, ‘Did you have it yesterday? Well, what do you think?’ And she’ll come to the conclusion that, you know, you’re right, I shouldn’t eat pie every night.”
On her husband, President Barack Obama: “One of the things that attracted me to Barack was his emotional honesty. Right off the bat he said what he felt. There are no games with him – he is who he appears to be. I feel fortunate as a woman to have a husband who loves me and shows me in every way. So yes, I do know that. And now he’ll know I know.”