Childhood Obesity News A resource for health professionals, parents, teachers, counselors & kids on the childhood obesity epidemic. Mon, 21 Sep 2015 10:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Role of the Microbiome in Addiction Mon, 21 Sep 2015 10:00:55 +0000 "Ultrasound Image of My Large Intestine"

“Ultrasound Image of My Large Intestine”

What is the role of the microbiome in addiction? Nobody knows for sure, but mounting evidence indicates that the gut plays a large part in the body’s reaction to addictive substances. The question is worth asking. Tens of thousands of bacterial species inhabit our intestinal tracts.

They are being intensely investigated, and many discoveries suggest that these bugs can do a vast number of things. Sure, they help us digest food. Some of them regulate fat storage in the body. All of them have their preferences regarding nourishment and environment, and if they are displeased, they can make it known in ways that we find unpleasant.

Metabolism, obesity, gene activity, food preferences, neural pathways, the brain—all of these phenomena are interrelated in a complicated pattern of reciprocal influence and commutual cause and effect.

Nature continues to drop tantalizing hints that an overarching Unified Field Theory might embrace all these things. It is even possible that our gut flora dictate whether or not we are prone to addiction. We’ve already seen a round-about link. For instance, Candida (which lives in our gut, among other bodily sites) can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, which in turn has been linked to a great many autoimmune conditions. People suffering from these painful disorders often self-medicate with opiates or other analgesics, leading to addiction.

A new book by neurologist David Perlmutter, Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life, which journalist Wendy Leung describes as containing “alluring tips on how to achieve neurological wellness through dietary changes and probiotic enemas.” Could this healing and protection of the brain include repairing whatever goes wrong up there to cause addiction?

Michael Pollen reminds us that the microbiome manufactures amino acids, short-chain fatty acids, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and even some vitamins. It constantly sends out signaling molecules that “talk to, and influence, the immune and the metabolic systems.” He goes on to say:

Some of these compounds may play a role in regulating our stress levels and even temperament: when gut microbes from easygoing, adventurous mice are transplanted into the guts of anxious and timid mice, they become more adventurous.

A Microbiome Thought Experiment

Here is a thought experiment: say that a certain type of microorganism prefers for its host to be fat, and has the ability to actively promote the growth of fat. Of course its ambition would be to colonize the nearest human digestive system. What if the proprietor of that digestive system has a gene that can either welcome the microorganism or reject it? That gene is the landlord who either allows the prospective tenant to sign a lease or sends the poor beggar on its way.

But how does the landlord decide whether to be generous or hard-hearted to a microbe? What switches on that gene? What if it turned out that the enabler of that gene is some characteristic of high fructose corn syrup, or monosodium glutamate, or one of any number of possible molecular presences? What if all addiction lives in the gut, ruled over by members of some of the thousands of species of bacteria that make their homes there?

What if addiction itself could be cured by the administration of prebiotics? Scenarios seem possible in which several different approaches to childhood obesity could all be used to ensure that no child faces the misery of addiction to overeating. What if there is a universal field theory that reconciles various schools of thought related to obesity?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Say hello to your little friends: Making sense of gut bacteria,”, 06/07/15
Source: “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs,”, 05/15/13
Image by miguel

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Dr. Pretlow’s Huffington Post Guest Appearance Fri, 18 Sep 2015 10:00:45 +0000 app_new_homescreen

Publication by the Huffington Post is a pretty big deal, so we are pleased to find Dr. Pretlow’s byline there. This piece, titled “Eating Addiction: There’s an App for That,” presents the complete rundown on the W8Loss2Go smartphone application. Boiled down to the essentials, the app has two aims: enable overweight kids to unhook themselves from problem foods, and make sure they have the coping skills to stay unhooked.

Dr. Pretlow touched on many things in his piece, including the fact that the worst thing about a “fat camp” is that the person eventually has to go home. Once released into the “real world,” many graduates of such programs find themselves backsliding. Sometimes they regain all the weight they worked so hard to lose. The most exciting aspect of W8Loss2Go is that it provides most of the benefits of a residential program at a tiny fraction of the cost.

Dr. Pretlow also reviewed the failure rate of bariatric surgery; for those patients the “real world” also takes its toll. But the great news for patients who opt for surgery is that they can dramatically increase their odds of long-term success by making W8Loss2Go a part of their post-op lives. The surgery might kick-start weight loss, but the smartphone app can guarantee that weight-loss efforts don’t run out of gas in the following months and years.

The History of W8Loss2Go

Dr. Pretlow first told the profession and the public about his promising W8Loss2Go concept at the 2011 National Conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s all about self-empowerment and realizing that the behaviors of pathological overeaters and those of hard-drug addicts are much more similar than coincidence could account for.

In the same year, Childhood Obesity News published “W8 Loss 2 Go iPhone App Fills Important Role,” discussing what Dr. Pretlow has learned about problem foods and what needs to be done about them. Several months later, we published the call to action for testers, describing W8Loss2Go as a self-directed overweight intervention whose goal is to help users identify behavior, social cues, and emotional states that lead to unhealthy food cravings and binge eating

In 2013 came “In the Media: W8Loss2Go,” announcing the participation of several highly-respected institutions and professional colleagues in an Australian trial. “W8Loss2Go Study in Adelaide, Australia” introduced the members of the study team, and “A Milestone for W8Loss2Go” talked about Ellen Burne, the cover girl who underwent lap band surgery. She feels that if the app had been available to her, her weight loss journey would have been easier.

Other posts discussed the pros and cons of the buddy system and the techniques of portion control. “Following Along with W8Loss2Go” talked more about the history and early development stages of the app, and some of the various groups that Dr. Pretlow addressed about it.

Childhood Obesity Study Brings Surprises” discussed the perils of self-reporting as a study tool. “The Mystery of Resistance” and “Happiness and Heaviness” covered some other psychological obstacles. “W8Loss2Go Helps in Stages” talked about withdrawal from “problem foods,” the snack reduction method, and the best technique for weighing food portions.

In a subsequent post, we also discussed the subtle difference between food addiction and the more accurate “eating addiction,” and the perhaps even more appropriate “overeating addiction.” We also looked at a similar app and compared the involvement level of parents that it asks, with the parental involvement level of W8Loss2Go. Another ever-popular topic is the all-important role of motivation—but that would bring us to a whole different list of posts.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by W8Loss2Go

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Developments on the Flaky Fringe Thu, 17 Sep 2015 10:00:13 +0000 What negative space_Childhood Obesity News keeps track of some of the more improbable proposed causes of and cures for childhood obesity.  Who knows? Some day one of them may prove to be the key that unlocks some secret to stopping the obesity epidemic. David Berreby explains the reason for denying that the diet plus exercise (thermodynamic) model has to be the only one. The human body’s fat metabolism is susceptible to other influences, including temperature. Fat burning can increase when a body is too hot or too cold.

Light is another significant factor. A rat study resulted in weight gain among animals who were not allowed a dark night to sleep in, but showed no increase in the weight of their fellow subjects who received the same diet plus the benefit of dark nights. One theory says that humans are meant to only eat in the daytime. Artificial light at night awakens our primitive instincts, which tell us it’s okay to eat all around the clock.

Berreby mentions some other things that have been named as possible obesity villains, such as viruses, bacteria, and industrial chemicals. They can all directly alter the activities of our cells, so why not? However, many authorities relegate such ideas to the flaky fringe. But Berreby says:

These theories are important for a different reason. Their very existence—the fact that they are plausible, with some supporting evidence and suggestions for further research—gives the lie to the notion that obesity is a closed question, on which science has pronounced its final word. It might be that every one of the ‘roads less travelled’ contributes to global obesity; it might be that some do in some places and not in others.

In other words, he suggests maintaining an open mind. So, with all prejudices and preconceptions laid aside, we ask ourselves whether the cause of childhood obesity could be a lack of Japanese comic strips—or more specifically, a lack of lessons presented in “manga” comic book style, characterized by “minimal texts, immersive narratives and detailed graphics.”

At Hunter College, assistant professor May May Leung arranged for a teaching session with several dozen 11-year-olds in an after-school program. In this subject pool, three-quarters of the kids were African American, making them statistically more likely to develop obesity than their white counterparts. The results of this study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, and here’s how it went:

The professor presented a test group of children with a 30-page narrative comic titled “Fight for Your Right to Fruit,” in which young comic characters chat about how fruit “tastes awesome” and about how David Beckham, the soccer legend, enjoys fruit. The comic included a non-narrative guide to healthy eating at the end. Leung offered her control group instead a five-page newsletter and word-search puzzle on Greek mythology.

After the two groups perused their separate literature, they were offered a selection of snacks, including an assortment of fruits along with processed snacks like cheesy crackers, cookies, chips and nachos. Of the kids who had been reading the Japanese-style comic narrative, 61 percent chose fruit snacks, while fruit was chosen by only 35 percent of the other group.

Or maybe childhood obesity happens because kids don’t get enough beer, as a Belgian group called the Limburg Beer friends suggested back in 2001. Recognizing that soft drinks and juices promote weight gain and consequent medical problems, the club president thought it would be better to serve school children with tafelbier, a weak concoction with about half the alcohol content of regular beer. To protect students between the ages of 3 and 15 from obesity, this seemed to be the obvious answer. Surprisingly, one school agreed to sponsor a test of this idea and learned that indeed, three-quarters of the kids preferred tafelbier over their customary sugar-sweetened beverages. But due to “parental concerns,” the experiment was not repeated elsewhere.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Obesity Era,”, 06/19/13
Source: “Can Japanese Comics Cure Childhood Obesity?,”, 02/11/14
Source: “Crazy Belgians Fight Childhood Obesity With Beer,”, 12/18/13
Image by Sonny Abesamis

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Formerly Fat—Nurse Bowick of Rochester Wed, 16 Sep 2015 10:00:53 +0000 Nurse BowickThis is not just any “formerly fat” narrative. Theresa Bowick of Rochester, New York, attended the Rochester Educational Opportunity Center (where she has subsequently returned to address the graduating class). After acquiring Licensed Practical Nurse credentials while working and raising a daughter, she went to community college for an associate degree in nursing. Then she graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree, along with the prestigious President’s Citation Award. She is currently working full-time with the developmentally disabled while also pursuing the nursing field’s most advanced degree.

But before listing her other accomplishments, we will tell you that at one stage of Theresa Bowick’s life, things did not look promising. She was a fat girl in a family in which obesity was the norm, in a chaotic environment complicated by many detrimental influences and, as Rochester Woman Magazine said:

Her desire to become a nurse was born out of a need to heal from an abusive relationship that seriously affected her self-worth.

Bowick later told journalist John Addyman:

Obesity is a multi-faceted disorder. It has to be dealt with in a multi-pronged approach…It’s about navigating life and learning how to shed the weight and it’s not necessarily the physical weight, it’s the emotional and spiritual weight. The stuff in my head was much heavier than the stuff on my hips.

Addyman’s story, titled “The Fat Girl who Grew Up to Be a Swan,” is in the current (September) Issue of the regional magazine In Good Health, and includes a quotation from Bowick’s quotation:

Now I’m taking all these other swans along with me. I don’t want to swim alone.

How did this swan revolution come about? With the help of Weight Watchers, Nurse Bowick lost more than 75 pounds, wrote a grand-prize-winning Inspiring Story, and appeared on the cover of the organization’s magazine. Then, she wrote a book: Collard Green Curves—A Fat Girl’s Journey from Childhood Obesity to Healthy Living.

For book publicity events (perhaps inspired by Lady Gaga’s meat gown) she constructed a dress from actual collard greens. One of the book’s main concepts is that the method of preparation is just as important as what people actually eat. For instance, while the traditional American collard green recipe is delicious, steeping the greens in pork fat is disastrous nutritionally speaking. Nurse Bowick also hosts a weekly radio show on health-related topics.

The Conkey Cruisers

On one life-changing day, Theresa Bowick learned that in her neighborhood, the perception was that anyone out exercising must be either fleeing from the police, or the police themselves travelling in undercover garb of running shorts and athletic shoes. The idea came to her to start a community bicycling club. Unbeknownst to her, the city had almost completed the El Camino Trail, the perfect venue for such an endeavor. Donations showed up, and the Conkey Cruisers became a reality. It wasn’t just ordinary bikes that were needed—many adult tricycles are in the mix, because a full one-third of the regular riders are over 55 years of age.

Throughout the summer there are three evening rides per week, with rain cancellations publicized on Bowick’s Twitter page. Much of the support work is done by her fiancé, Rudolph Harris, and the events are very well attended by people of all ages, even those up into their 80s. Margaret Madigan reports:

In its inaugural year, “Conkey Cruisers” received numerous honors; including a feature in President Barack Obama’s Fitness is Fun Newsletter, a House of Representatives congratulatory note in the official United States Congressional Record via Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a New York State Assembly Citation and a City of Rochester Proclamation.

This year Bowick received the Get Outdoors Award from Park and Trails New York. But it hasn’t all been rosy. A few months ago, practically all the bikes were stolen from the group’s storage site. Rather than dying, the program received publicity and donations that brought in even more bikes than before. This is the story of a woman who not only helped herself to escape from obesity, but who continues to encourage and uplift her entire community.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Fat Girl Who Grew Up to Be a Swan,”, Sept. 2015
Source: “Theresa Lou Bowick.”, 02/03/14
Source: “Bikes Stolen From Neighborhood Bicycle Program, Community Donates 3 Times as Many.”, 07/06/15
Image by Theresa Bowick

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The Language of Obesity Tue, 15 Sep 2015 10:00:43 +0000 sizeSadly, childhood obesity is inextricably connected with bias, stigma, discrimination, blaming, and shaming. “Obesophobia” is an actual word. It is an intense and abnormal fear of weight gain that might be caused by family influence or a distorted self-image that developed in some other way. Too often, the next step is anorexia or bulimia.

Logically, it seems like there should also be an objective meaning, similar to “homophobia,” which is an intense fear of and aversion to homosexuals. But no, there is a different word for the fear of fat people: cacomorphobia, which in Greek means fear of an ugly shape. says:

Cacomorphobes are terrified of fat or obese people; they simply cannot control the terror they experience around such individuals. They often realize that they are being judgmental (often downright mean), and yet they are unable to control the panic attacks they experience at the mere thought or sight of fat people…Many phobics, for example, reveal feeling nauseated upon seeing fat people eating or bingeing on high calorie foods at restaurants.

Erik Hayden wrote for about research that was done at Bowling Green State University, showing that “individuals are very likely to form an immediate negative impression toward the obese.” More than 300 subjects were shown both females and males ranging from normal weight to extremely obese, and were asked to agree or disagree with such statements as “People like this make me feel uncomfortable.” The results?

Participants didn’t merely exhibit a preference for thin figures and indifference to obese ones—they showed active dislike toward these theoretically obese.

The root of fat-shaming seems almost to be instinctual. But Hayden noted one detail that may or may not be comforting. No gender bias seemed to be involved. The dislike of the obese applied equally to the virtual males and virtual females employed in the study.

Last year, reported on a seeming change in the word “fat” itself. The example given was that while 60 percent of women who were surveyed said that “fat” is an offensive insult, many activists are also busy reclaiming the word and investing it with pride. Fat acceptance is definitely a social force, and probably not a useful one. This article says:

Fewer people who describe themselves as overweight are willing to say that “fat” is clearly just an objective description of someone’s weight. This is true whether you compare them to people who think of themselves as having a healthy weight or people who describe themselves as having obesity.

A report on the plus-size fashion industry traced the linguistic variety that has described clothes for big women. “Full-figured” is a term that originated with the lingerie industry. “Plus” is only about ten years old. “Curvy” is gaining popularity. Plus-size model Alexandra Boos told New Yorker contributor Lizzie Widdicombe that a movement is afoot to reclaim “fat.” Boos tends to doubt that a universally acceptable word will ever be agreed upon. During Full Figured Fashion Week, a panel discussed the question of whether “plus” has become a dirty word.

The Obesity Action Coalition believes that obesity is a disease, and that fat-shaming is the last culturally acceptable form of discrimination. The publication “Understanding Obesity Stigma” aims to reduce the bias that clings to obesity. The Coalition identifies separate areas of influence within the society, such as healthcare, media, education, employment and entertainment. The thought leaders among them are encouraged to abandon the old obesity-focused language and adopt “people-first language.” Working with the Rudd Center and The Obesity Society, they created a set of “Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesity.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A Fatter Phobia,”, 02/08/10
Source: “What’s Becoming of the Word “Fat”?,”, 08/14
Source: “The Plus Side,”, 09/22/14
Source: “Weight Bias and Stigma,”, undated
Image by walknboston

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Curbing Childhood Obesity with Legislation and Taxation Mon, 14 Sep 2015 10:00:06 +0000 The Soda ShopAs 2014 drew toward its close, over half the American states had soda taxes. The city of Berkeley, California, became the first to successfully institute a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Heartened by these advances, several other states were considering soda taxes of their own. One was Illinois, which, as Nathanael Johnson noted, was in severe budgetary trouble. Polling suggested that 65 percent of the state’s voters would support a soda tax that would make up for a $600 million Medicaid shortfall. The Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians was in favor of legislation called the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Act, whose history and current status can be found on an Illinois state website. For months, the bill has been painstakingly adding co-sponsors, one by one.

Apparently, bipartisan support can be gained for such taxes when the income is earmarked for medical care. But as we have seen, the voters are not always confident that the money raised by their good intentions will be channeled to the places where they want it to go.

Other places are trying a slightly different approach. The California city of Davis approved an ordinance to make water and milk the “default options” for children’s meals served in restaurants and fast food establishments. In practice, this means children’s parents can still order soda for them, but the servers are not supposed to suggest it. If soda is promoted as a first choice, the management gets a talking-to, and if it happens again, a $100 fine can be levied.

The Junk Food Epidemic

Obesity and diabetes have become widespread, according to the Navajo Area Indian Health Service. The Navajo nation became the first part of the United States to impose a tax on junk food. On April 1, 2015, the 2 percent tax went into effect, coupled with the elimination of an already-existing tax on vegetables, fruits, and other healthful foodstuffs. Sabrina Toppa reported for Time:

Revenues from the sin tax will reportedly be channeled toward community wellness projects like farmer’s markets, vegetable gardens and greenhouses in the 27,000 sq. mi. of Navajo reservation spanning from Arizona and New Mexico to Utah…With nearly half of the Navajo youth population facing unemployment and 38% of the Navajo reservation at the poverty level, supporters say the act may serve as a prototype for sin taxes to curb obesity in low-income communities across the U.S.

Meanwhile, over in the United Kingdom, relentlessly activist chef Jamie Oliver is at it again, this time sponsoring a petition meant to convince the government to tax SSBs. The petition now has gathered well over 125,000 signatures. Such a tax could bring in £1 billion per year, which if used properly could make a slight dent in the nation’s annual £9 billion expenditure on diabetes treatment.

Going at the problem from the opposite end, hoping to eliminate rather than create a tax, an Irish politician has called upon the ministry of Transport, Tourism and Sport to expand the successful Cycle to Work program by omitting the tax on bicycles and cycling equipment purchased for school children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Soda taxes bubbling up all over,”, 05/28/15
Source: “In this city, offering a kid a soda is about to be illegal,”, 05/29/15
Source: “This Place Just Became the First Part of the U.S. to Impose a Tax on Junk Food,”, 03/30/15
Source: “Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Tax Petition Has Had HOW Many Signatures?!,”, 09/08/15
Source: “Labour Senator calls for tax-free bikes for Irish school kids,”, 07/21/15
Image by Kool Cats Photography


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Highlights from “The Cost of Sugar Addiction” Fri, 11 Sep 2015 10:00:37 +0000 Sugar skulls!A while back, Childhood Obesity News featured a four-part series about the many costs, both obvious and obscure, of sugar addiction.

The toxicity of sugar is not a new concept. In the 1960s, Prof. John Yudkin sounded the alarm and was universally regarded as a crank. Health policy investigator Gary Taubes explains how the well-regarded Seven Countries Study was misinterpreted, and the harm that has resulted. In 1975, William Dufty’s book Sugar Blues had a significant impact on public consciousness. In 2005, the documentary film Big Sugar raised another assortment of issues. For instance:

Daniel Stefik’s review of Big Sugar notes that the Fanjul brothers, Florida’s fabulously wealthy sugar barons, keep legislators happy by donating to both major political parties. In return, they enjoy yearly government subsidies worth $65 million, none of which reaches the pockets of the oppressed workers, and all of which is extracted from the pockets of taxpayers, i.e., the rest of us.

In that post, we suggested that the average American consumes 90 pounds of sugar per year. In other posts, we quoted other numbers, all from valid but contradictory sources. The average person would be astonished by the tricks found up the sleeves of statisticians. Nobody really knows how many pounds of the white drug the average American eats every year. The estimates go as high as 170 pounds per annum. One thing is certain—it’s too much.

According to Jennifer M. Regan of Bamboocore Fitness, a hundred years ago, the American per capita average consumption was 4 pounds a year.

HFCS is Just as Bad as Sugar

Part 2 of “The Cost of Sugar Addiction” mentioned the radical YouTube video released in 2009 by Robert H. Lustig, the pediatric neuroendocrinologist with a definite prejudice against sugar. He calls high-fructose corn syrup “the most demonized additive known to man,” while assuring readers that it deserves every ounce of that demonization. The post also discussed insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome, and diabetes: all closely connected with sugar consumption.

Part 3 quoted Gary Taubes on the metabolic syndrome, and on his belief that fructose is worse than other forms of sugar because, while the whole body somehow participates in metabolizing glucose, the task of assimilating fructose falls mostly on the liver. For the same reason, sugary drinks are worse than sugary foods because their glucose and fructose hit the liver like a tidal wave.

Every day, more and more health professionals feel totally comfortable in comparing the harm potential of sugar to that of alcohol or tobacco. One of them is Mark Bittman, a journalist who published a vegetarian cookbook. Part 4 discussed his ideas, and included some truly frightening estimates of the financial costs of the diseases resulting from sugar addiction. The numbers should have a sobering effect.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Not So Sweet,”, 2015
Image by Alex Barth

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How One Man Lost 266 Pounds Thu, 10 Sep 2015 10:00:56 +0000 Kelvin BurnettMark Manson is an author greatly interested in happiness, self-knowledge, habits, relationships, and several other areas of human awareness. He invited a guest blogger with a fascinating story, Kelvin Burnett, who lost 266 pounds by “getting his mind straight.” (A short time later, an expanded first-person account was published by Huffington Post as a reader success story.)

As a child, Burnett had meningitis, which put him in a coma and damaged his hearing to the point of legal deafness. At around seven, he was enrolled in a school for deaf kids, and had already started to gain weight. By high school, obese was the only word that fit. Clothes didn’t, and he couldn’t shop for them in regular stores, or go on amusement park rides. Furniture broke beneath his weight, and kids used ugly nicknames.

Burnett responded by playing football, where bulk was an advantage; watching a lot of TV; and pretending that he felt just fine about being oversized. Then he went to college, and gained so much more weight that he couldn’t fit in an airplane seat to go home for vacations. He writes:

By sophomore year, my relationship with food had likely reached the point of addiction…From what I’ve seen, the definition of an addiction is when your desire for something begins to interfere with the functioning of other parts of your life…I think I became addicted to the feeling of being full. So I ate, and I ate, and I ate. Food became my drug.

The One-Person Intervention Team

During a summer break, Burnett’s grandmother visited and scolded him vigorously for letting this happen. She reminded him of how, during the meningitis coma, his life had hung in the balance. That was something nobody could have controlled. But now here he was, a grown man, in a different kind of coma, a self-imposed one, on a road that only led to one destination, a miserable early death.

The shock of being taken to task by this normally mild-mannered grandmother was too much. He went to the gym and did something he had not done in a while—stepped on the scale. It registered 484 pounds and, Burnett says, “That number, by itself, was an intervention—like a hard slap in the face.” Wanting to start with something uncomplicated, he began riding a stationary bike every day for 40 minutes to an hour. After a couple of weeks, he started to like it. He says:

This was key. If you’re going to stick to a new lifestyle, you have to find a way to enjoy it. If you don’t find a way to enjoy exercising, you will never stick with it.

He switched to a diet basically consisting of fruits, vegetables and grilled chicken, with one cheat day a week, and by college graduation had lost 130 pounds. Now he could fit into an airplane seat, but at 350 pounds he was still not date-bait, and that was a concern. Further dietary adjustments and increased workouts were next on the agenda. As a child he had adopted the “fat kid” identity to be accepted, but as an adult he rebranded himself as the guy who was constantly losing weight. It gave him pride and confidence. Burnett wrote:

There’s always a simple choice to make in the present. Take those choices one at a time. Forget about yesterday. Forget about tomorrow. And just focus on what you can do no —don’t eat that dessert, go outside and walk 30 minutes. All of these things are a series of tiny choices, not any sort of dramatic lifestyle change. Do that and eventually, one day, you’ll find yourself on top, and you’ll hardly even know how you got there.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Winning the Mental Battle of Weight Loss: How One Man Lost 266 Pounds, 08/29/13
Source: “I Lost Weight, 09/02/13
Image by Kelvin Barnett

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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Wed, 09 Sep 2015 10:00:36 +0000 streetOne obstacle to activism is the human tendency to become fed up. A cause can raise awareness, then reach a point of diminishing returns and even develop an emotional backlash. People get compassion fatigue. More than five years ago, Neville Rigby wrote for The Guardian:

We have obesity awareness with almost daily headlines, and continual debate, while the government’s Change4Life initiative is being promoted widely to the point where we need to take care to avoid message fatigue.

That was the situation in the United Kingdom on the occasion of the first European Obesity Day, and 15 (mostly Eastern European) countries had signed up for active participation. Like many other nations, the UK strives to limit health care costs, ideally without reduction in the level or quality of services, which is rarely possible.

In the European Union, the opinion that it would be good to exercise more control over junk food marketing was prevalent. At the World Health Assembly, the selling of sugar-sweetened drinks was also a major point of concern. Rigby quoted a couple of officials who talked about focusing on prevention rather than cure, and the importance of curbing obesity because of all the miserable and expensive diseases that come along with it.

Message fatigue was also the concern of Dr. Lauren Smith, who four years later, for the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality, wrote of the struggle to hold the public’s interest in a long list of worrisome health issues:

Given the many priorities and important issues that are competing for our collective attention, it is easy to understand how policy makers and the public become numbed to the recurrent “calls to action”…All of these issues are incredibly important and for those families and communities who are touched by them, each leaves a lasting legacy of sorrow and lost potential.

Dr. Smith speaks of adjusting our language to make problems more understandable to people who don’t confront them every day. She believes that the first necessary step is to actually have faith that thoughtful and creative efforts can really make a difference. The Centers for Disease Control website offers a list of ways in which parents can prevent childhood obesity:

  • Make sure children get adequate sleep
  • Follow recommendations on daily screen time
  • Take part in regular physical activity
  • Eat the right amount of calories.
  • Substitute higher-nutrient, lower-calorie foods for calorie-dense ingredients
  • Serve children fruit and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
  • Ensure access to water as a no-calorie alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Help children get the recommended amount of physical activity each day

All of this brings on another kind of fatigue. Parents can really get tired of the constant, everyday struggle to enforce some kind of sane food policies in the home. But just to keep us on our toes, reminds us of the grim realities:

More than 23 million children ages 2 to 19 in the United States are obese or overweight. That’s equal to a third of the country’s children who are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, not to mention added stress and anxiety from social pressure as they grow up.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity awareness is not the problem,”, 05/22/10
Source: “Overcoming the Epidemic of Compassion Fatigue,”, 06/05/14
Source: “September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,”, undated
Source: “3 Health Tips to Practice During National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,”, 09/01/15
Image by Martin Abegglen

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Taxes, Bans and Ballots Tue, 08 Sep 2015 10:00:41 +0000 Knights in CombatLast year two California cities, San Francisco and Berkeley, had soda tax items on their ballots. The soda industry is said to have responded by investing $9 million in a campaign designed to stamp out any bad thoughts about their companies or products. Those elections attracted the attention of two experts, both from Cornell University, but with very different philosophies.

In an essay issued by the university, their positions are described. David Just teaches food marketing and economics, and does not believe that soda taxes are effective against obesity. Also, like every other denier of a connection between sugary drinks and the obesity epidemic, he states that soda taxes penalize the poor more than the rich. When it comes to repeating the party line, Prof. Just can be depended upon. Listen to this carefully honed pronouncement:

While drinking too much soda can lead to obesity, the best research out there shows it is not the soda that is making us fat. It is our overall diet and lack of exercise.

At least this soda apologist has the decency to refrain from claiming that calories don’t count. The statement begins with the astonishingly frank admission that obesity can be caused by too much soda. But the professor goes on to reinforce the big fib, the one that says people can drink all the sweetened beverages they please, as long as they set aside 10 or 12 hours a day for enough workouts to lose those calories.

Also, “the best research out there” makes scientific studies sound like low-hanging fruit that happens to grow on the Research Tree, and corporations just wander around gathering it. In reality, they carefully pick the scientists who do their research. “Best according to whom?” is another viable question.

In Favor of a Soda Tax

The other side is represented by Jeff Niederdeppe, who teaches communications and concentrates on the field of health messaging. He co-authored a study titled, “Americans’ opinions about policies to reduce consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

First of all, Niederdeppe says, the advertisements produced by the American Beverage Association are engineered to confuse consumers and/or voters. For instance, their public relations material encourages the public to regard them as courageous knights who fight on behalf of the downtrodden peasants against a proposed turnip tax. In their propagandistic, rabble-rousing way, the ABA talks about a “food tax.” But there is a world of difference between a sugar-sweetened beverage and a turnip.

In Berkeley, more than three quarters of voters approved a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. As 2014 drew to its close, the contrarian California city became the first to institute a soda tax of one cent per ounce, and made $116,000 in the first month. They apparently had not determined ahead of time what to do with the money, and a panel was empaneled to decide. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Rep. Rosa DeLauro had proposed the SWEET Act, a national soda tax. Reason writer Baylen Linnekin is not a fan:

Rep. DeLauro publicly announced her intentions to introduce the tax during a videotaped appearance at the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s insiders-only “soda summit” in June, shortly before a New York State court sounded the death knell for New York City’s reviled soda ban.

If memory serves, what Mayor Bloomberg tried to do in New York was stop the sale of soda portions larger than 16 ounces, which, when you think of it, was kind of a quixotic move. All anybody would have to do, really, is just buy two. At any rate, that mild attempt could hardly be called a “soda ban.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Two Takes On The CA Soda-Tax Wars,”, 10/14/14
Source: “Soda taxes bubbling up all over,”, 05/28/15
Source: “There’s Nothing SWEET About the National Soda Tax,”, 08/23/14
Image by Jeff Kubina

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