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    Globesity and Mission X

    October 9th, 2015

    Mission X artworkImagine a program for children that would build their core strength and other muscle groups as well. Endurance and agility would also be among the beneficial results. Thanks to the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, there is such a program. “Mission X: Train Like an Astronaut” is an international and educational program that wants children to adopt the concept, “Your body is your spaceship for life.” It issues physical challenges of varying difficulty.

    Interested parents and professionals can download a flyer that explains the program. Also downloadable are the Annual Reports starting with 2011. Mission X has a song, and training videos, and a page that lists associated organizations. At the bottom of that page are a very large number of logos.

    For Niagara Frontier Publications, jmaloni wrote:

    Other activities help kids improve concentration, hand-eye reaction time, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, bone health and high-energy levels, and, in general, promote a healthy lifestyle…To date, children from 29 countries worldwide have participated in the “Mission X” program. Its website uses games, handouts, journaling, videos and podcasts to introduce kids to 18 physical and educational activities adapted from actual exercises used by astronauts to prepare for space exploration.

    The head of this project (and many others) is Dr. Youfa Wang, who is a childhood obesity expert and a professor of epidemiology, environmental health, and pediatrics. The doctor’s 15-year-old Systems-oriented Global Childhood Obesity Intervention Program has received over $25 million in grants. The reporter says:

    This includes funding from several U.S. federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Also, this program is being developed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose role is “official collaborative partner.” The researchers work with data collected by NASA from at least 20 countries, and Dr. Wang told the press that his group’s analysis is meant, in turn, to “enhance the design of the program’s data collection instruments.” In other words, a big part of the Mission X mission is to help the government gather even more information.

    It seems possible that sponsorship by the U.S. government’s air and space authority, even though it is ostensibly civilian-oriented, could be counterproductive to the global anti-obesity effort. Information gathering, and directives about how to run their countries, might strike a dissonant chord with regimes that are already unhappy with what they perceive as American imperialism, whether cultural, military, economic, religious, or any other kind.

    The obesity prevention research team is partly a training program, where novice researchers learn to measure childhood obesity and figure out what causes it. Ultimately, they hope to prevent childhood obesity, and no doubt many good ideas will be engendered. One school of thought holds that a good idea will spread spontaneously, and indeed cannot be stopped, and there is no need to introduce it by coercion.

    Bonus Knowledge-Made-Easy Webpage

    For, Julia Belluz created a page whose title says it all: “21 maps and charts that explain the obesity epidemic.” Perhaps “explain” is too strong a word, because explaining how this happened is what so many scientific institutions are presently trying to do. It would be more appropriate to say these graphics “illustrate” the problem. Still, the visual aids are very useful.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “About Mission X,”, undated
    Source: “UB team partners with NASA to design, implement, evaluate global obesity
    prevention programs,”, 01/26/15
    Source: “21 maps and charts that explain the obesity epidemic,”, 11/17/14
    Image by Mission X

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    Navigating Toward a Globesity Cure

    October 8th, 2015

    CosmographiaYesterday, Childhood Obesity News  unpacked some of the contents of the McKinsey Global Institute’s “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis.” The Institute, which is intimately connected with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, modestly characterizes its own report as:

    …the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators. Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era.

    There are were four main findings, which we capsulize here in condensed form. First, no single anti-obesity intervention can do the job, and the Institute came up with 44 (from a field of almost twice that many) that can be implemented and are expected to do some good. Cost effectiveness is important here, of course. Communities and government bodies will have to find the money to do these things, but the new procedures will pay off in the long run.

    Second, two things are seen as critical: education and personal responsibility. What do we mean by education? If it’s just calorie charts and information about vitamins, Childhood Obesity News would not squander much hope on the results. As the participants in Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website have repeatedly asserted, they are pretty well filled up with nutrition facts and the like. What they need is help controlling food cravings while they work on tracing the origins of those cravings and replacing them with more positive and useful emotions.

    More McKinsey Findings

    Point 2B is a bit more ominous. Of course, personal responsibility is to be lauded wherever it grows and wherever it can be developed, in every circumstance of life. But in corporate-speak, as we have seen, “personal responsibility” is code for “We will manufacture and market any goshdarn thing we please, and if you don’t like it, shop somewhere else. It’s all on you.” We hope that McKinsey doesn’t mean it that way.

    Success will depend on cooperation and effort from every sector of society, and that includes “governments, retailers, consumer-goods companies, restaurants, employers, media organizations, educators, healthcare providers, or individuals.” Also, consider this fiduciary wisdom:

    Moreover, some kind of coordination will probably be required to capture potentially high-impact industry interventions, since any first mover faces market-share risks.

    In other words, somebody will have to take one for the team. Somebody has to walk point on this jungle trail, and possibly trigger a trip wire. Perhaps the corporations will figure out a way to band together and pool the mission’s liabilities. The final point? None of this will be easy, but the world needs to do it anyway.

    In the same month when McKinsey’s report launched, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published the results of an analysis of data derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which more than 26,000 children were followed for 14 years. The article makes the scope of the problem clear:

    Most alarming, the study finds an increase in the number of children with severe forms of obesity, whose body mass index measured 120- to 140-percent higher than children of average healthy weight.

    Not long afterward, The Lancet initiated a six-part series about globesity or, as academic and professional journals call it, global obesity. In this publication’s view, progress is unacceptably slow. For instance, only one country in four seems to have put healthful eating policies in place. Here is one problem, and it doesn’t take a venerable institution like The Lancet to make it obvious:

    Taste preferences and brand loyalty are established during infancy, so the industry pushes highly processed foods and sweetened drinks on children from a young age.

    To emphasize the significance, the piece notes that the global market for processed baby formulas and foods has almost reached $20 billion per year. But Harvard’s Dr. Christina Roberto is quoted as saying:

    It’s time to realize that this vicious cycle of supply and demand for unhealthy foods can be broken with ‘smart food policies’ by governments alongside joint efforts from industry and civil society to create healthier food systems.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “How the World Could Better Fight Obesity,”, November 2014
    Source: “Severe childhood obesity on the rise in US, study shows,”, 11/22/14
    Source: “Global obesity response is ‘unacceptably slow,’ according to experts,”, 02/19/15
    Image by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

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    Should Earth be Renamed Dearth?

    October 7th, 2015

    Four HorsemenDearth is an old-timey word that still means the same thing: an insufficiency. We suffer from a lack of understanding. More and more information is gathered every day, and numbers are crunched, and little progress is made. Childhood Obesity News is casting a backwards eye over some news stories of the past year or so, all bearing cautionary messages. McKinsey & Company is a management consulting firm with global reach whose clients include “businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, and not-for-profits.” A year ago the firm issued the report “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis,” which is available for download in four different formats.

    Working with data gathered by the World Health Organization, McKinsey applied its analytical magic to determine how the top four social burdens stack up in terms of their annual drain on the world’s resources. The four factors have something in common. The damage they inflict and the costs they incur are pretty much voluntary. These human-caused burdens are unnecessary and preventable—theoretically, anyway.

    Smoking                                            $2.1 trillion
    Armed Violence, War and Terrorism       $2.1 trillion
    Obesity                                                $2.0 trillion
    Alcoholism                                             $1.4 trillion

    That’s right. Expense-wise, obesity beats alcoholism, and has almost caught up with smoking and war. But just give it another couple of years—obesity still has a chance to make it to the top. The strong possibility exists that by 2030, nearly half the world’s adults will be overweight or obese. That’s almost one out of every two grownups, with children and grandchildren following close behind.

    This is what we have to look forward to—a planet full of people in plus-size clothes, unable to fit into car or airplane seats, running up stratospheric medical bills. As things stand, smoking, war, obesity, and alcoholism are the Four Horsemen of the Fiscal Apocalypse. Bottom line? Humanity is in a world of hurt, and seems likely to continue leaving a legacy that worsens with every generation. As we careen down a precipitous road, nobody can find the brake pedal. McKinsey says:

    Obesity is a complex, systemic issue with no single or simple solution. The global discord surrounding how to move forward underscores the need for integrated assessments of potential solutions. Lack of progress on these fronts is obstructing efforts to address rising rates of obesity.

    After considering 74 potential interventions, McKinsey Global Institute has boiled them down to 44 that might make some difference. So that interested parties may hear all about the Obesity Abatement Program, the company also offers a podcast (a link to it can be found on the company’s website). McKinsey does not claim to know everything or to have all the answers. Touchingly and poetically, the text explains:

    We see our work on a potential program to address obesity as the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators. Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era. We are sure that we have missed some interventions and over- or underestimated the impact of others. But we hope that our work will be a useful guide and a starting point for efforts in the years to come…

    Here is an interesting detail. McKinsey’s comprehensive report focuses on energy balance—in other words, eating habits and physical activity, aka diet and exercise. But the company takes a keen interest in an area of obesity science that is in its infancy—the role of the gut microbiome.

    The other of the two areas of particular interest is “the role of different nutrients in affecting satiety hormones and metabolism”—something that also appears to be under the sway of the tiny organisms that inhabit us. These important questions need “considerable further research” and if the firm is as influential as it seems, study of the gut microbiome will increase exponentially.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “About us,”, undated
    Source: “How the World Could Better Fight Obesity,”, November 2014
    Image by Waiting For The Word


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    Should Earth be Renamed Girth?

    October 6th, 2015

    Globe post card sample 1We live in the midst of a worldwide trend toward ever-increasing obesity. Imaginative observers have compared it to speculative fiction classics such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Orson Scott Card’s story of a planet where everyone suffers from genetically engineered Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

    By February 2014, childhood obesity awareness was increasing everywhere, but in the United States the train jumped the track when the Centers for Disease Control issued a report based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The report stated that among children age 2 to 5, the obesity rate as measured in 2011-2012 had decreased by a few percentage points from its corresponding number in 2003-2004.

    The report also said many other things, but the press glommed onto that one tidbit. CDC researcher Cynthia Ogden had specified right there in the report that such a fact should be interpreted cautiously, but they paid no attention. Unfortunately, misleading headlines deluded some members of the public into thinking the childhood obesity crisis was over.

    A similar study published in JAMA Pediatrics, based on the same data but extending the timeframe back 14 years, found that overall childhood obesity rates in America have increased.

    Not long afterward, a Gallup survey showed a 7/10ths of a percent increase from the previous year in overall obesity in America. It confirmed that people from minority groups and/or with lower economic status are most at risk for obesity. For example, the black population has reached a 35 percent obesity rate.

    In the pool of all Americans, around 35 percent are of normal weight, and about the same proportion of the entire population is classified as overweight. Not surprisingly, people between the ages of 18 and 29 are least likely to be obese. Anyone making more than $90,000 per year is very unlikely to be obese.

    In the middle of last year, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released the results of a very sizeable metastudy that included information from 1,700 other studies. The facts, gathered between 1980 and 2013, came from 188 countries. Published in the journal Lancet, the research was financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

    The news was bad: over the past 30 years, no country has been successful in reducing its obesity rate. Even worse: about 13 percent of all the world’s fat people are American. No other country accounts for such a large proportion of the whole. We are the champions of a contest nobody wants to win.

    (…to be continued…)

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “U.S. childhood obesity rates have increased since 1999: study,”, 04/08/14
    Source: “U.S. Obesity Rate Hits a Costly New High,”, 05/22/14
    Source: “30 percent of the world is now overweight or obese, no country immune,”, 05/29/14
    Image by Михаил Чуркин

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    Fat-Shaming—Why Not?

    October 5th, 2015

    forsakenOn behalf of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, Joanne Ikeda made an unambiguous statement:

    The whole ‘war on obesity’ has focused a whole lot of attention on fat people and the general impression of the public is they can be shamed or scared into getting thin…Which is absolutely ludicrous. If every fat person who has been shamed was motivated to somehow get thin, believe me they would be.

    Coming from a diametrically opposite philosophical position, comedian Benji Aflalo recently said:

    I like fat-shaming. What’s the problem? Doesn’t everybody?…I fat-shame myself all day–I can’t fat-shame anyone else?…I don’t fat-shame people to their face. I just do it behind closed doors, because it’s fun.

    Not every case of alleged fat-shaming is so clear. Some controversies exist in a murky middle ground. Earlier this year, Facebook came in for a share of criticism because of its “I’m feeling fat” status option and emoticon. A group of fat acceptance activists charged the social media site with enabling its users to make fun of overweight people, including those with eating disorders, and even accused the emoji of promoting self-destructive thoughts. They started the “Fat is Not a Feeling” movement and created a petition at

    A few days later, the petition had gathered over 16,000 signatures, representing only a tiny fraction of Facebook’s billion and a half active monthly users. Still, the site discontinued the “I’m feeling fat” emoticon. The move stimulated plenty of discussion about whether it is healthy for such a widely-used social medium to bow to pressure from such a small percentage of its users.

    Weight Bias Can Do Harm

    One of the most knowledgeable people in this realm is Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. An entire report on weight bias that asks the question, “Are we fighting obesity or obese persons?” is available as a downloadable PDF.

    It recommends that medical professionals should ask permission to get a patient’s weight, then use appropriate, sensitive weighing procedures in a private setting, recording the weight without comment or judgment.

    Doctors, nurses, and anyone else who weighs people are urged be more aware of the reality and consequences of weight bias. A respectful demeanor is recommended, along with avoidance of shame or blame, and a focus on specific heath behaviors that need to be implemented.

    Dr. Puhl explains that millions of people are affected by the stigma and prejudice that accompany weight bias, and the wrong approach can lead to serious psychological consequences as well as adverse effects on physical health. Many patients who have been fat-shamed have reacted by avoiding checkups and letting dangerous conditions develop, and this of course is detrimental to their health and quality of life. Professionals are also reminded to be conscious of the social and economic inequalities that impact the lives of the people for whose care they are responsible.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Overweight Women Tend To Earn Smaller Paychecks, Study Claims,”, 10/22/14
    Source: “Ice House Chronicles #119,”, 08/02/15
    Source: “Fat Activists Demand Facebook Remove “I’m Feeling Fat” Emoticon,”, 03/09/15
    Source: “Facebook drops ‘feeling fat’ emoticon,”, 03/11/15
    Source: “Weight Bias in the News Media and Public Health Campaigns: Are we Fighting Obesity or Obese Persons?,”, 2013
    Image by debaird™

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    Globesity Roundup and What It’s Worth

    October 2nd, 2015

    one worldIn 2011, Hungary bit the bullet and began taxing sugar, fat, and caffeine, as a way for the government to take in some money for treatment of the damage caused by those substances. Several other European countries sat up and took notice. “Globesity—the Big Picture” had more to say about Hungary’s try at implementing a fat tax, and included brief remarks about the happenings in Denmark and a few other countries. “Globesity and Tax in the Far North” also talked about Denmark, as well as Finland. Bucking the worldwide trend, Norway and the Netherlands report relatively low rates of child obesity, and we looked at the measures that both countries are taking to keep their numbers low.

    The pioneers of psychedelic experience warned that “set and setting” are all-important, and the same seems to be true of the dining experience. “What’s Going On With Globesity?” discussed American and French mealtime habits and speculated on why the differences do seem to make a difference. Another post looked at what the World Health Organization found in Uzbekistan.

    The Big Obesity Picture

    A page at offers “21 maps and charts that explain the obesity epidemic,” and two of them are pertinent to the global situation. Item #9 is a World Health Organization map whose color coding makes it easy to see where the epidemic is worst. It includes the disheartening news that obesity worldwide has nearly doubled since 1980. This is balanced by Item #21, a chart from The Lancet showing that obesity rates seem to have stabilized in recent years. The accompanying explanation, however, is not reassuring:

    Exactly why this has occurred remains a scientific mystery, but researchers think it’s the impact of some combination of changes in policy, increased awareness about healthy lifestyles, and the attention that has been paid to stopping obesity in early childhood.

    The world also contains many encouragers and enablers of obesity, and most of them have the word “corporation” in their names. Financial speculators who want guaranteed returns on their investments are advised to buy shares in companies that sell food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, diet and nutrition products, sports clothes and gear, and basically any weight-loss or healthcare services.

    Just to break it down a little, Moneyweb reports that in 2013, the purveyors of supplemental vitamins and minerals did $35 billion worth of business, while the world’s gyms and health clubs took in $78 billion and the athletic and apparel industry made a staggering $365 billion.

    Who would look at the global obesity epidemic and think, “A Fat Investment Opportunity?” A corporation would. Hanna Berry says this:

    There are plenty of potentially lucrative opportunities for investors looking to “play the global fight against obesity theme,” according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch… The US-based wealth and banking group notes that the global health and wellness food market is estimated at $932 billion…Quoting Euromonitor, it says the industry is both “high growth and high margin” and is set to reach $1.1 trillion by 2019.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “21 maps and charts that explain the obesity epidemic,”, 11/17/14
    Source: “A fat investment opportunity,”, 04/16/15
    Image by Kai Schreiber

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    Obesity, Fat Acceptance, and Romance

    October 1st, 2015

    sizeThe ungrammatically titled web page “Photos: 7 Women You Won’t Believe They Actually Exist” features a woman who is literally wider than she is tall. With a height of only 5’4”, Mikel Ruffinelli weighs 420 pounds and measures 8′ around the hips. This is the pattern for women in her family. Her shape causes some problems, like having to go through some doors sideways, while others are impossible from any angle. At home, her chairs have been engineered with steel supports and her bed is 7 feet wide. She has to drive a truck because car seats are too small.

    Even though she is unable to move around for more than a few minutes at a time, Ruffinelli told the press that she loves her shape, has no health problems, and sees no reason to attempt a reducing diet. This may sound like the world’s biggest case of denial. What can’t be denied is her happy home life with her husband and their three daughters. reported:

    Mikel has been married for ten years to computer technician Reggie, who is wonderfully besotted with his wife. Reggie tells Mikel how beautiful she is every single day, and is really proud of his wife for happily accepting the way that she is… And as Mikel says, “Men don’t fancy skinny girls, they like an hourglass figure.”

    Childhood Obesity News has discussed the phenomenon of fatlogic, which allows a person to rationalize away every aspect of dangerous obesity. One such horrifying story came from a Reddit contributor known as “Melaidie” who voiced many concerns about her mother:

    She tells my sister she’s fine. She’s perfectly healthy, her blood pressure is FINE. Even though she couldn’t attend my sister’s speech that she promised she would. Even though she’s told me she has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Even though she has fibroids. Even though she gets dizzy because her blood pressure was too high…Her stomach is massive. She blames this on the large fibroids she has growing on her uterus. The fat everywhere else though? What’s that from?

    Returning to the subject of romance, there are websites that cater to the dating preferences of men who prefer large women and women who prefer large men. Though cruder colloquial labels exist, they call themselves “fat appreciators.” Some fat appreciators cop a militant attitude, implying that men who do not chase extra-curvy women might be homosexual. Some oversize people of both sexes take it for granted that anyone who resists their advances must be a fat-shamer, which is the moral equivalent of being a racist. Many people do not want to entertain the notion that the problem might instead be their personalities. It all makes for a very tangled psychological landscape.

    Do We Lie To Ourselves About Attraction?

    An overweight person might be mistaken about the deep-seated reasons for a partner’s preference. A very insecure woman might become romantically linked with an obese man, based on her conviction that no one else will try to steal him away. A normal-weight man who feels inadequate might pair up with an obese woman for the same reason. Motivated by fear of abandonment, people of both sexes have purposely “fattened up” their partners because they mistakenly perceive it as a guarantee of permanence.

    Some of the resentment felt by “fat acceptance” advocates seems to originate in genuine misunderstanding. They seem to truly believe that their fate is beyond their control, while other, more fortunate people are just destined to be thin. While it is true that people have different genetics and metabolisms, very few really fit people are able to simply eat as much as they want of whatever they want.

    When people discuss mixed romances online, one thing they point out is how different a couple’s values and beliefs are likely to be. When someone is obsessed by the myth that a lean, toned physique just happens naturally and without effort, it is easy to think that physical maintenance is just an excuse for something disreputable. The happily overweight person might think those so-called gym sessions are excuses for the partner to be out flirting or even cheating.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Photos: 7 Women You Won’t Believe They Actually Exist, undated
    Source: “My mother, the fat logician, October 2014
    Image by TRF_Mr_Hyde

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    Motivation from Virtual Pets

    September 30th, 2015

    Teaching a virtual pet to draw with Playstation MoveAnimal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted intervention are two names for an aspect of “green care,” described in a previous Childhood Obesity News post. Real live animals are not the only ones who can help kids out of obesity. Imaginary animals made of bytes and pixels can also play a role.

    In mid-2014, the University of Georgia announced that playing with an obese virtual dog could help kids to achieve new levels of health. Researchers from several departments collaborated to create an activity monitoring device to encourage exercise by incentivizing it in an indirect manner—by appealing to a child’s altruism. In a three-day study in which half the subjects used the device and half did not:

    The group with the virtual pet was told their amount of physical activity would reflect the condition of their pet, meaning the more they would exercise, the more weight their virtual pet would lose…The study resulted in a pattern of increased physical activity from the group who played with the virtual pets during the study. They averaged 1.09 hours of additional activity per day compared to the group without the virtual pet.

    The developers estimated that the device could be sold for $150, but it does not seem to have reached the market yet.

    Around the same time, the toy company LeapFrog invented a similar gadget. They started by looking at adult fitness trackers, and learned the dismal news that around one-third of adults who bought fitness trackers used them for under half a year. This did not discourage the LeapFrog people, because they had something different in mind. The company’s CEO, John Barbour, told Fast Company:

    A lot of the adult activity trackers really just track your activity. They tell you what you’ve done. What we’ve done here, it’s not really truly about tracking the activity—it’s really about stimulating the activity.

    Their new product, the LeapBand, is advertised as the first wearable fitness tracker specially designed for children (and costs under $30.) Children differ from adults in several ways, such as having shorter attention spans. The device’s features include games, quizzes, and a considerable number of activity challenges all having to do with strange little pets. The appropriate age range is fairly narrow, 4-7 years.

    From the description it seems pretty high-maintenance, needing to be plugged into a computer every day for charging and to change the settings. For instance, although the audio effects are an important component of the fun, parents have to specify the hours during which it will be silent for school attendance. The activity-tracking function continues all the time, of course. While the device is connected to a computer, parents can add new predetermined activity challenges, up to a total of 50. published an extensively detailed review of the LeapBand in which Lakshmi Sandhana wrote:

    Pet Play rewards kids with new toys, Pet Boogie has them teach their pets dance moves and in Pet Salon they wash and groom their pets. The Pet Chef game does teach them basic nutrition though…Earning more rewards allows them to do more fun things with their pets, like give them their favorite foods or new toys.

    The reviewer noted several areas that could use improvement and, all in all, felt that what started out as good idea had not yet been fully realized.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “UGA researchers find virtual pets help increase physical activity, reduce obesity,”, 06/09/14
    Source: “For Kids Aims To Fight Childhood,”, 05/04/14
    Source: “Review: LeapBand activity tracker for kids,”, 12/23/14
    Image by Justin Hall

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    Sons of Obesity—Motivation for Grownups

    September 29th, 2015

    kurt sutterFor Rolling Stone, Erik Hedegaard wrote a profile of the guy who invented “Sons of Anarchy,” beginning with this sentence:

    The most important thing to know about Kurt Sutter is that he once weighed 400 pounds.

    Sutter is the creative genius behind the immensely popular and extremely gory biker-gang series that ran for seven years on the FX network. He wrote a lot of the episodes, directed some of them, and produced the entire oeuvre. But what about childhood?

    In a family that outwardly appeared to be intact, Sutter grew up in a separate universe from two older sisters. In the boy’s chubby physique and apathy toward sports, their uninvolved father found further justification for his remoteness and lack of empathy. As a boy, Sutter’s only emotional connection was with his mother, and when she started down the road to full-blown alcoholism, he responded by overeating even more. The journalist captured these illuminating words from the “rock-star showrunner” who spent his youth sequestered with a TV set:

    I’ve been self-medicating since I came out of the womb…Food was my first drug of choice. By the time I was a teenager, I weighed 400 pounds…I spent a lot of time in that basement. I could go down there and escape and be whatever I wanted to be. I had a huge fantasy life. It always involved vengeance. I was really angry…I didn’t really have a girlfriend…you can crush them to death.

    In the interview, Sutter also expressed that last sentiment in words more crude and raw. He was hit hard by the realization that a 400-pound dude would probably never have a relationship involving either the heart or any other organs. So, he told Hedegaard:

    That’s when I flipped the switch on the food addiction and swapped it out.

    Here is where a parent might think, “Aha! All I have to do is simply remind my son that he will never get a girlfriend, and that will put his head on straight.” Such an assumption would be quite wrong and abysmally counterproductive. Even a very young child has an innate sense of privacy and decorum when it comes to matters of the heart. Teasing a boy about having a girlfriend or not having a girlfriend is tasteless and inappropriate coming from a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or any other relative, and can lead to unforeseen consequences.

    This kind of thing is even more toxic for a little girl, who is not well-served by growing up with the expectation that the most she can hope for out of life is a man who will take care of her if she bends over backward to please him.

    And teenagers? Forget it. A typical adolescent does not want any input of any kind, from any parent, at any time, in any way, shape, or form, regarding her or his choice of love object. Even if a teenager opens the dialogue about dating prospects, the wise mom or dad will access those “active listening” and “I-message” skills learned in Parent Effectiveness Training and put them to use. To go any farther is to tread on thin ice.

    Proceed With Caution

    As far as the correlation between obesity and undateable-ness, teens certainly do not need grownups to connect the dots. When fat has gone too far, the message can rarely be heard coming from the outside. It depends on inner realization, which in Karl Sutter’s case is apparently what occurred. He wanted to be a normal, sexually active male, and unless the flab was banished, that was never going to happen. In college he discovered exercise (universally endorsed) and an illegal drug that promotes activity and weight loss (endorsed by no one.)

    In less than a year, half his body disappeared, and loose skin was removed by an unspecified number of surgical procedures. He has remained under 200 pounds for 20 years now (aided, we hope, by good habits rather than dangerous chemicals). Over the course of a very eventful life, he destroyed all pictorial evidence of the fat years. But the shadow is always there. One last quotation:

    I did not get filled as a kid. I am forever hungry.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “The Original Son of Anarchy, 09/29/14
    Image by Gage Skidmore

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    Obesity Statistics and News in America

    September 28th, 2015

    all the newsAt best, a news story headline can attempt to capsulize a situation in fewer words than a Twitter tweet. At worst, it can spread misinformation faster than the airborne bacteria expelled by a sneeze. Of course, all news stories are not created equal. Reportorial bias is taken for granted, and trying to understand any news item requires a delicate balance between respect for authority and a healthy skepticism. A person needs to have a nose for spin and a sense of what sounds improbable.

    Where does all this information originate? What are the sources? Obesity news comes from many organizations, agencies, institutions, bureaus, and foundations that either gather numbers as one of their functions, or cause numbers to be gathered by others. Most supply some kind of interpretation along with the numbers. This is a soft science, but no less important, because most people are simply baffled by news stories that often seem to conflict, not only with what they were raised to believe, but with each other.

    In July of last year, for instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a report titled “Prevalence of Obesity in the United States,” which said:

    Dr. Ogden and colleagues concluded that there have been no significant changes in the prevalence of obesity over the past decade. The authors also reported that the prevalence of obesity in children ages 2 through 5 years declined significantly. However, the data on the prevalence of obesity in this age group were unstable.

    Thanks to ineptly-phrased headlines, many members of the public were convinced that the battle had been won and the childhood obesity epidemic was over. Irresponsible writers took that bit about the 2 to 5-year-olds and ran with it. But the first sentence included the words “no significant changes in the prevalence of obesity over the past decade,” and almost everyone ignored that part.

    An incredible amount of information is available to anyone who cares to look. Obesity Prevention Source, a service of Harvard University, provides research summaries, statistics and trends, diet and lifestyle tips, and preventive strategies that can be implemented by governments at the community and national levels. Harvard describes it as, “An in-depth resource for all who seek to understand the causes of obesity and to reverse the epidemic of obesity in children and adults.”

    The Union of Concerned Scientists recently published a comprehensive two-part guide to the food industry’s strategy of following Big Tobacco playbook. Lindsey Haynes-Maslow writes:

    My past research on the tobacco industry’s framing of arguments revealed that they focused on promoting individual choice and personal responsibility, inciting fear of big government (think “nanny state”), threatening economic insecurity, and accusing public health scientists of manipulating data about the consequences of smoking.

    How Healthy is Your Community?” is an interactive map of the United States on the website of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Pick a state, and then narrow it down to a county, and find “Overall Rankings in Health Outcomes” and “Overall Rankings in Health Factors.” An infographic titled “The United States of Obesity” is an example of what can be done by curating informational items from several different sources and placing them in logical order with pictures and charts.

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “Prevalence of Obesity in the United States.”, 07/09/14
    Source: “Obesity Prevention Source.”, undated
    Source: “A Lunchroom Lesson, Part 1: Repackaging Tobacco for a Food Fight,”, 03/18/15
    Source: “How Healthy is Your Community?.”, undated
    Source: “The United States of Obesity,”, 08/05/14
    Image by Robert Couse-Baker

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