Of Current Interest: MEND

Fast Food

If you are in the United Kingdom, you’re in the midst of the National Childhood Obesity Week (July 4-10), originated by a group called MEND, which stand for “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition… Do it!” Events planned for this year included a new MEND Olympics program. In general, MEND promotes services designed to offer long-term solutions, mainly centering around the concepts of healthier food choices and increased physical activity.

We have mentioned MEND before. Founded in 2004, it claims to have the world’s largest database of child weight-management data. It has formed research partnerships with Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust and University College London Institute of Child Health, as well as several American institutions, including the University of Texas School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Additionally, there are research partnerships with Canada’s Simon Fraser University and Australia’s Deakin University.

Their main program is MEND 7-13, in which participants learn about nutrition, behavior change, and active play. For 10 weeks, they attend two sessions per week, each of which lasts an hour or maybe two. It seems to be sustainable, at least in the short run.

According to the organization’s website:

Independent clinical studies show that MEND 7-13 helps children who are above a healthy weight to reach a healthier weight, increase the time they spend being active, improve their fitness and raise their self-esteem… We record every participant’s progress while they are attending a program. On MEND 7-13 we track them for many years after they finish too… Research shows that the health of children who’ve been on MEND 7-13 remains improved 12 months after the program ends.

There are also distinct programs for 2-4 year-olds and 5-7 year olds, and all the programs for children involve other family members, too.

It is interesting that the full name of the organization puts “mind” first. MEND deplores negative attitudes toward the obese, because this is not helpful. MEND’s literature says that obesity needs to be talked about openly, honestly, and sensitively, and MEND creates environments where this can happen without people facing judgment or ridicule.

But, aside from that, it’s hard to get a handle on exactly where the “mind” part comes in. There is no mention of the mental/emotional ramifications of food addiction, so we assume that MEND does not look at the obesity epidemic through the “psychological food dependence-addiction lens.”

Perhaps, next year, they should invite Dr. Pretlow, who has been quite busy carrying his ideas to places outside the U.S. In May, he spoke on the topic “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Foods as as Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic” in Istanbul, Turkey, at the European Congress on Obesity. This group has invited him back for the upcoming 2012 conference in Lyon, France, where he will talk about “Social Networking and Obesity.” Currently, Dr. Pretlow is attending the International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal, and speaking there.

We are of course excited about the very imminent print publication of Dr. Pretlow’s paper, “Addiction To Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of The Childhood Obesity Epidemic: A Qualitative Internet Study,” in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention. The work is already available online as a 14-page PDF file.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Who we are,” MEND
Image by Deivis (David Gill), used under its Creative Commons license.

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