David L. Katz, M.D., is the director of both the Yale University Prevention Research Center and Griffin Hospital’s integrative Medicine Center. He is editor-in-chief of the journal Childhood Obesity, whose recent issue celebrated the second anniversary of the Let’s Move! initiative, and included a foreword written by Michelle Obama, wife of the American president and originator of Let’s Move!.
Katz also heads the nonprofit called Turn the Tide Foundation, which has many projects underway, all of them concerned with childhood obesity. Let’s look at a few.
PHINDER is the acronym for a program amazingly named “Promising Health Interventions Inventoried by a Network of Diverse Experts for Regional Application.” Its purpose is to be a clearinghouse for information crucial to stemming the childhood obesity epidemic. It holds:
[...] tested and effective, best-practice programs designed for a variety of settings, such as worksites, schools, communities, etc., to address the seven most prevalent chronic diseases… The PHINDER clearinghouse includes program information supplied by faculty at the schools of public health, medicine, and nursing, as well as the six state health departments.
For the present, it’s a New England regional resource, one of whose purposes is to stimulate other parts of the country to set up their own, using it as a model. Other programs deal with various aspects of nutrition and physical fitness, as well as nutritional labeling on food packages. The one called OWCH, described as “a state-of-the-art self-study program for clinicians in obesity/lifestyle counseling,” sounds very appealing. As as whole, Turn the Tide’s activities are designed to be thoughtful as well as practical, recognizing the different needs of different populations. They are also simple and free.
The latest media project from the Turn the Tide Foundation is a lively and invigorating music video (2:59) called “Unjunk Yourself,” which features three young people and a slightly older gentleman whom they convert to healthful eating. It’s only one element in a program designed to empower tweens and teens, and only one in a projected series of similar music videos under the collective title of “Vitality Rap.”
Dr. Pretlow says:
I really like Dr. Katz’s ‘Unjunk Yourself ” video. I like the mantra, ‘Chose what you chew.’ But will such creative efforts prevent kids from using junk food to cope, if junk food is still in front of them?
Dr. Pretlow has gone on record many times as suspecting that a focus on healthy eating and physical activity might distract from the root problem of childhood obesity, which is like an addiction. In these pages, he has said:
Compelling evidence points to a serious dependence on highly pleasurable comfort foods (i.e., addiction) as a major component of the childhood obesity epidemic, not unlike addictions to tobacco, alcohol, and even drugs.
The Turn the Tide literature offers an analogy to make its point:
Using multiple strategies to combat obesity is akin to stacking sandbags against a flood-tide. No one sandbag, however well made, can stop a flood. But stack enough sandbags, and you have a formidable protective barrier.
In one way, this is undeniably true. Many sandbags, in the form of programs, modalities and approaches, are needed. Every population is marked by differences, every individual is different, and what works for one person to prevent obesity may not work for someone else. But there is a way in which the analogy fails. It is possible that so many sandbags are needed because we are ignoring the one big answer that might stop the flood-tide and eliminate the need for sandbags altogether.
Consider this. One of the programs available through Turn the Tide is called NEWLR, which stands for “The National Exchange for Weight Loss Resistance,” and it’s a place for people to get together online and exchange their experiences (much like Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock.com). The description says:
NEWLR is also a registry. The aim of the registry is to gather as much information as possible from individuals who experience weight loss resistance to better understand this condition.
But take a closer look at the phrase, “weight loss resistance.” Why is losing weight so difficult for obese individuals, given that nearly all are miserable being obese? Maybe “weight loss resistance” is just another way of saying “food addiction,” a condition that is already quite well understood by specialists in addiction medicine.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Special Issue of Childhood Obesity Journal,” LiebertPub.com, 02/08/12
Source: “Programs,” turnthetidefoundation.org
Source: “Ending Childhood Obesity Through Healthy Eating & Exercise?,” Childhood Obesity News, 04/27/11
Image of Vitality Rap is used under Fair Use: Reporting.