As a former first lady of the U.S. and the public face of the Let’s Move! campaign, Michelle Obama championed one cause above all others: ending childhood obesity. As she raised public awareness of nutrition and exercise, the public took note that Obama was sporting one particularly impressive fitness feature, herself: her envy-inducing arms. Magazines opined on how to achieve her sculpted look, and sleeveless styles found their place at the front and center of fashion.
Now 58, Obama says her days of sporting her signature feature may be behind her—but for good reason. Read on to learn how Obama says her fitness routine has changed, and why that’s only one part of her transformation in recent years.
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For Obama, fitness is both a means to stay healthy and a way of connecting with friends. While in the White House, she would regularly host fitness “boot camps” to make the most of their time spent together.
“I find that when we get together and we’re moving and we’re laughing, then we spend a little time talking about what we’re going through,” she told People. “I’m not always leading the workout, but the workout still happens. All of my friends are healthier because we do it better when we’re doing it together.”
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Obama says that if her famously toned arms have changed over the years, it’s the result of menopause and aging. Her workouts now consist of more stretching and less cardio, which she says helps her stay in shape and maintain flexibility while also avoiding injury. “You wind up balancing between staying fit enough and being kind enough on your body to stay in the game,” she recently told People.
The former first lady says that hormonal changes have also gradually affected her weight, a common feature of menopause. “I never used to weigh myself. I’m not trying to stick to numbers, but when you’re in menopause, you have this slow creep that you just don’t realize,” she told the outlet. “I have to be more mindful, not obsessive, but more mindful,” she said, adding, “I am still physically active, and my goal now, instead of having ‘Michelle Obama arms,’ I just want to keep moving.”
When Obama entered menopause at 50, she realized there was a dearth of information available to women in this particular life stage. “There is not a lot of conversation about menopause. I’m going through it, and I know all of my friends are going through it. And the information is sparse,” she explained at the time. “You’re trying to sort through the information and the studies and the misinformation.”
Hoping to begin the conversation herself, Obama opened up in interviews about her own set of symptoms and remedies. The former first lady shared that she now takes hormone replacement therapy as a means of fighting hot flashes, but counts herself “blessed” by her otherwise minimal symptoms so far. “I think my skin still feels healthy. My hair is still in my head. These are the things that I have to count my blessings for,” she told People.
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For the record, the former first lady still looks as gorgeous as ever. However, Obama says that some of her recent physical changes have heightened the insecurities that have always plagued her. “I personally have plenty of mornings when I flip on the bathroom light, take one look, and desperately want to flip it off again,” Obama wrote in her recently released book, The Light We Carry.
In response, she says she now works harder to “practice being kind” to the woman in the mirror—and hopes other women will do the same. “I thought about what are the messages that I’m giving myself every day, and how do I reverse that trend? How do I light up for myself first?”
“Today when I’m looking at the mirror, I still see what’s wrong, but I try to push those thoughts out,” she explains. Instead, she focuses on the positive, complimenting herself as she would a friend: “‘Wow, you are healthy. Look at your skin. Look how happy you look, your smile.’ I try to find the things about me that I love and start my day a little more kind.”