In an interview appearing in the November issue of Prevention magazine, Mrs. Obama discusses the meaning of good health, aging and her exercise, diet and beauty routines. She sat for the interview at the White House in late July.
Mrs. Obama says she learned "what not to do" from her mother, Marian Robinson, who now lives at the White House.
"She'd say being a good mother isn't all about sacrificing. It's really investing and putting yourself higher on your priority list," Mrs. Obama said. She said Robinson put her own two children first, sometimes to the detriment of herself.
"She encouraged me not to do that," Mrs. Obama said.
The first lady said there are many facets to good health - physical, internal, emotional, diet - and all are intertwined.
"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," Mrs. Obama said in her first interview with the women's health monthly. "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," she added. "It's a lesson that I want to teach my girls."
Asked for a definition of happiness, Mrs. Obama said it's when daughters Malia, 11, and Sasha, 8, "are good and when my family is whole." She expressed relief that early in the year after moving from Chicago the girls came and told her they liked living in the White House.
"My happiness is measured against theirs. When they're in a good place, I feel really good," she said.
Mrs. Obama, who is 45 and appears on the magazine's cover, also said she has no fear about getting old.
"To me, with age, everything has gotten better," the first lady said.
She strives to be "on the cusp of being in the best shape that I can be" in, but has found she needs to work a little harder at it the older she gets. As a result, she has begun to incorporate more Pilates moves and stretching into her workouts to maintain flexibility.
Mrs. Obama also is working on balancing out her diet, which she said has "no absolute no's."
"Overall, it's good, but there are some great bakers" at the White House, she said, noting that pie is always available. "So for me, it's about setting up new boundaries. I had some challenges with that, but I'm balancing out."
The November issue of Prevention hits newsstands on Oct. 6.