Eat for Success — Maybe

Junk food
The trouble with eating for success, it seems like every time somebody declares, “This approach works!,” another expert comes along and announces, “No, it doesn’t.” That’s why some of the Childhood Obesity News posts are facetiously titled “Everything You Know Is Wrong” — because even in the elevated realms of research and academe, there is a whole lot of “he said, she said.” Also related are Childhood Obesity News posts with “ways to not be fat” as part of the title. Eating for success is just a classier way to phrase the same idea.

There is no doubt that the food we take in is important: the amount, the basic components of it, the additives, and perhaps other aspects like the time of day when we eat. Many helpful people offer advice regarding food, like the writer who suggests a dozen real foods that we could perhaps learn to prefer over chocolate-covered bacon.

Heather Brubaker speaks of “retraining” the palette, a goal that is entirely possible, as many former junk food junkies will attest. Brubaker’s particular choices may not be the best ones, but she makes a good point:

The trick is to keep real food snacks around, or bring them with you, so you’re not tempted with impulse buys near the register… It’s all about retraining your palette and your habits.

Ingenious and even useful as many such suggestions can be, they are still just fancied-up versions of nutritional advice. Nothing wrong with that, but, at the bottom line, nutritional advice is just another version of “Just Say No.” Healthy eating advice translates to “Just Say Yes to These Foods,” and, by implication, “Just Say No to Others.”

Will the obese person replace the chocolate-covered bacon with an apple? As the old song went, “it ain’t necessarily so.” A lot of people are likely to add the apple and keep the chocolate-covered bacon. This is where so many good intentions fail to produce results. All the attention to nutrition obscures the fact that another factor seems to be operating, one that comes under the heading of neither diet nor exercise.

Dr. Pretlow says:

Childhood obesity is not a nutritional ignorance problem… Focusing on nutritional education for children may divert attention away from the real problem, that stressed depressed kids are using highly pleasurable foods to cope, i.e. comfort eating, and thereby become dependent (addicted). Once their brains realize that stress, pain, and boredom are eased by the pleasure of the foods, the kids may, unknowingly, become dependent. Our action really should be to keep abused foods away from where kids are (just like drugs) and teach kids how to deal with life without turning to food.

Which reminds us of another piece of advice, frequently heard but not brilliantly successful. Which is, to first identify the foods that trigger overeating and then occasionally indulge in them on a limited basis. Probably not a good idea. Dr. Pretlow believes that a person’s worst problem foods need to be avoided forever, just as if they were peanuts or shellfish, or something else capable of causing a deadly reaction in an allergic child.

Amazon.com sells a couple of hundred cookbooks aimed at children’s health, some written or co-written by doctors. Some are not listed there, like the one mentioned by Irene Kraft. The Healthy Way to Changing Carbs: Weight Control and Weight Loss for Families With Kids is by Dr. Arnold Slyper, a pediatric endocrinologist (and father of five) practicing in Allentown, PA. At work, Dr. Slyper was seeing children with out-of-control blood sugar levels, sleep apnea, liver disease, and a whole range of other obesity-related conditions. Yet some of those patients could not be proved to be overeating, and some were quite active, so, according to conventional wisdom, there was no reason for their obesity.

The reporter says:

More alarming… is that he began seeing more children with insatiable appetites. They needed seconds at meals and were hungry for snacks right after they ate… As he did more research, he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t how much his patients ate but the kind of food they ate. Most of those with weight problems were eating the wrong kind of carbohydrates — the high-glycemic kind. These are foods like candy, soda, potatoes, crackers and other starchy foods that increase sugar levels in the bloodstream.

Isn’t it interesting that the problem foods mentioned by Dr. Slyper are the very ones that so many children and teenagers across the world identify as their problem foods? (The very ones that the “W8 Loss 2 Go” iPhone app can help eliminate.)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Junk Food Jones: Retraining Your Palette with 12 Real Food Alternatives,” EcoSalon, 04/28/10
Source: “Weight-loss guide for families,” The Morning Call, 11/01/10
Image by sfllaw (Simon Law), used under its Creative Commons license.

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Childhood Obesity News | OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say | Dr. Robert A. Pretlow
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