Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Sugar, Salt, and Fat: Michelle Obama's Rhetoric Concerning the Let's Move! Initiative, Binary Opposition, Weight Obsession, and the Obesity Paradox

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Ellen Gorsevski (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lara Lengel (Committee Member)


The goal of this project was to conduct a textual analysis on the social and political implications of First Lady Michelle Obama’s rhetorical artifacts from 2009 to 2011 regarding her childhood obesity campaign and widely-supported initiative entitled Let's Move! The analysis examined the remarks made by Michelle Obama regarding childhood obesity at five separate speaking engagements. The research focused on the rhetorical and social construction of weight, while emphasizing the immediate need for policy-change and a human rights focus in relation to weight discourses. The major objective of this work was to investigate discursive and symbolic themes of empowerment, peace-building, violence, dehumanization, globalization, sustainability, consumption, consumerism, and performativity while drawing on critical rhetorical studies and health communication scholarship to challenge the status quo of binary opposition, weight obsession, and the obesity paradox in lieu of contemporary US weight discourses.