Childhood Obesity News A resource for health professionals, parents, teachers, counselors & kids on the childhood obesity epidemic. Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:00:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 More of Dr. Pretlow’s Conference Presentations Fri, 17 Apr 2015 10:00:41 +0000 posterOne week ago, Childhood Obesity News looked back at some of Dr. Pretlow’s presentations to various professional groups, leaving off in October of 2010, at the Royal College of Physicians National Obesity Forum. Today the retrospective continues. We already mentioned some, but not all, of the ideas included in his plenary session presentation, “Why Are Children Overweight?

If Dr. Pretlow has made this point once, he has made it a hundred times: knowledge about healthful eating does not help much. Kids need to know this stuff, but given the current state of technology, all they really need to know is how to look it up. Yes, a bedrock of information is essential, and one function of any fitness device or application is to deliver specialized information in easily understandable form, to someone who needs it now.

Whatever the goal—weight loss of overall health improvement—data is key. At the same time, it is no panacea. To possess information is what might be called a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition. Something else has to be added to the mix.

Schools can teach good nutrition in every grade, K-12, but there will still be obese children, and the reason is not theory-based, but utterly pragmatic. The thousands of kids who respond to the Weigh2Rock website have made it clear. Information about vitamins and calories is not what these kids need. They’ve had it up to here with statistics.

What Obese Kids Need to Lose Weight

Obese kids need the same things that adult addicts need: the motivation to become unhooked, and the tools for the job. Influencing motivation is tricky, because it is highly individual. Coerced motivation can break down at any time, for a number of reasons.

Even when extrinsic motivation is introduced more softly, it is still unreliable. A person who can be persuaded one way can subsequently be persuaded in another direction. To be effective, motivation has to be found inside a person, not grafted on from the outside. (We will say more soon about therapies designed to help people get in touch with their motivation.)

Meanwhile, tools are a different matter. Skills and techniques can definitely be taught in a coherent way. Techniques and skills are easily learned (although perhaps not easily mastered). There are ways to resist cravings, and ways to say “no” to oneself. There are ways of responding to sadness, boredom, and stress that do not involve food. There are ways to stop indulging in mindless, unconscious behaviors. Many life skills can be purposely acquired and eventually perfected, which is the mission of the W8Loss2Go smartphone app.

The Obesity Society, 2010

In the same month, October 2010, Dr. Pretlow could also be found (and seen and heard) at the Obesity Society’s 28th Annual Scientific Meeting. This major event for obesity professionals is…

…a forum for increasing knowledge, stimulating research, and promoting better treatment for those affected by this disease.

One feature of such gatherings is the opportunity to display graphic teaching aids called posters, including the one created by Dr. Pretlow, titled “Food Addiction in Children.”

That same busy month included a keynote address to the Women’s Sports Foundation in Washington state, an organization of whom Dr. Pretlow says, “They embraced the food addiction concept. They want to reach out to sad, isolated, obese kids… It was a good group.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Weigh2Rock

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Happiness and Heaviness Thu, 16 Apr 2015 10:00:25 +0000 Happiness is a Full Stomach

Childhood Obesity News has mentioned before that the young people taking part in the pilot studies of the W8Loss2Go smartphone app are strangely unexpressive about their unhappiness.

This is puzzling because Weigh2Rock, Dr. Pretlow’s immensely helpful and popular website, is living proof that, under some circumstances, kids will talk about their unhappiness and struggles in very great detail. Maybe the anonymity makes the difference.

But while children and teenagers are not always the most articulate witnesses of their own lives, there is a source of information in the memoirs of grownups who recall what it was like to be obese children. Other adults, who were normal-weight children and became obese in their adult years, share at least some experiences and feelings with obese children, so it is possible to extrapolate back to the similarities they share with younger people.

A Study of Misery and Food

Researchers learned about the role of food in emotions in a roundabout way through a study funded by NASA for the benefit of future astronauts, who need to remain in a good mood throughout an extraterrestrial mission. When people responsible for doing important jobs are confined together in tiny spaces, their mental health is of the utmost importance. Should an effort be made to provide spacecraft crews with specifically designated comfort foods?The surprising answer from the University of Minnesota, according to the study, published in the journal Health Psychology, is—apparently not.

The researchers signed up 100 volunteers and showed them depressing film shorts (scenes from movies with depressing plots or moments). Then, the research subjects were fed two different kinds of food. One group received meals that qualify as comfort food—french fries, macaroni and cheese, chocolate treats—and the other group got healthy stuff.

After the films, everyone filled out questionnaires designed to assess their emotional conditions. We must keep in mind that self-reporting is always an iffy proposition. Also, in a bottom line that has almost become a joke, the study ended up recommending further research. But given those caveats:

The study concluded that we believe comfort foods provide us with some type of mood benefits, but there’s really no difference from eating other foods or no food at all.

The science is still out, however, so this conclusion could go into the “Everything You Know Is Wrong” category. There are different kinds of well-being, with different assessment tools. The objective kind is assessed by such standards as BMI measurements, and the subjective kind has to do with how subjects feel. Whether we like it or not, kids feel better when they eat junk food to comfort their emotional malaise. reported on a large study a few years back:

Using data from the National Health Interview Survey in Taiwan—a nationwide survey carried out in 2001—the authors looked at the fast food and soft drink consumption, body weight and level of happiness of 2,366 children aged between 2 and 12 years old.

The study’s key finding was that children who ate fast food and drank soft drinks were more likely to be overweight, but they were also less likely to be unhappy.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Comfort Foods Can’t Relieve Your Misery, Study Says,”, 01/15/15
Source: “Junk Food Makes Kids Fatter, But Happier, Study Suggests.”, 04/14/09
Image by Jason Tester

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Disease, Obesity, and Motivation Wed, 15 Apr 2015 10:00:57 +0000 Morbidly ObeseChristopher Bergland is connected with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization primarily concerned with the childhood obesity epidemic. Its project is the Healthy Schools Program, which operates in 27,000 American schools. He is also an endurance athlete and coach who…

…aspires to bring you inside the athletic mindset and process of success in sports and competition so that you can better understand your psychology surrounding physical activity and take your life to a higher ground.

Bergland wrote for Psychology Today about the decision the American Medical Association made in 2013 to classify obesity as a disease that is both chronic and complex.

A typical argument for this move was that obesity “impairs normal functioning,” which is part of the definition of disease. Some experts were in favor because it would confirm obesity as a health problem, rather than a character problem. And of course, the disease designation could attract more funding for research, prevention, and treatment, and help patients use their insurance.

Disease Label Causes Psychological Backlash Among Obese

Bergland, like many other health professionals, worried about the law of unintended consequences: the choice to declare obesity a disease could backfire and incur hidden costs. Subsequently, researchers from the University of Richmond and the University of Minnesota vindicated his concern through a study of whether the disease label would inadvertently sabotage the good intentions behind the change.

700 people responded to the opportunity to participate in an online survey. They were divided into 3 groups, with each group assigned to read a differently-slanted article about obesity. One article was a standard neutral public health message; another described obesity as a disease; and the third specifically affirmed that obesity is not a disease. Then all the participants answered questions about their thoughts and behavior.

What the research team found was psychological backlash—a tendency among some obese people to give up and let themselves go. The obesity-as-disease trope encourages body acceptance, also known as fat acceptance, which is not an unalloyed blessing. More ominously, it apparently decreases any motivation that people might have to treat their obesity as an urgent problem or to prioritize the ending of it. Bergland says:

The results of this study show that when obesity is framed as a disease—or not a disease—it has a dramatic impact on an obese persons attitudes towards health, diet, and weight… The researchers found that obese individuals who were told that obesity is a disease actually made less effort to make healthy diet choices and reported less motivation to change their weight.

Like so many studies, this one determined that further research is needed. In the soft sciences, a very large number of studies share that recommendation. In a way, this is good, because it shows open-mindedness and an avoidance of dogma. In another way, it could be seen as a copout, because no one can ever look back and complain that “needs more research” was an incorrect answer.

In the way that really matters for us right now, it is disappointing. If people see disease as something beyond their control and believe they literally can’t help it, any attempt at weight management seems futile, so why bother to try? This is the question that urgently needs answering. And it seems, from all the highly individual stories of motivation, that each person needs to find her or his own answer.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Labeling Obesity as a Disease Increases Body Acceptance but Decreases Motivation to Lose Weight, 01/28/14
Source: “Obesity is a disease because it impairs normal functioning, 07/13/13
Image by Rich Moore

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Motivation and Two Men Tue, 14 Apr 2015 10:00:35 +0000 Corey Stoll

In discussing self-image, Childhood Obesity News has mentioned Corey Stoll, who has been remarkably frank about his struggles with weight. A morbidly obese child and 300-pound teenager, Stoll grew up to become well-known actor in “House of Cards,” “Law and Order,” and other highly recognizable TV shows. He uses the residual body dysmorphia as a tool of the trade that gives him a deeper understanding of the characters he portrays.

What turned him around, so many years ago, was a showcase where his teacher proposed that he play either the Hunchback of Notre Dame or the Elephant Man. While being a “character” actor is better than no acting career at all, he realized that it wasn’t the goal to aim for.

I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to only be playing Quasimodo for the rest of my life, so I better lose some weight.

Incidentally, many young people want the day they receive their high school diploma to also be the line of demarcation between fat kid and normal-weight college student. This is so common, it is surprising that entrepreneurially-minded therapists don’t focus on the demographic and specialize in treating this age group. Why not combine a fitness course with the tradition of taking a “gap year” between high school and college? It would be possible to create a physically intense travel itinerary that would turn overweight kids into not only more savvy and sophisticated young people, but fitter ones. It could be marketed as the ideal graduation present.

Stress Brings Back Weight

More recently, Stoll talked on Aisha Tyler’s podcast about how he was working 70 hours a week on a television series when half the cast was fired, and his stress level increased painfully. He put on about 35 pounds in a month and resorted to wearing Spanx, but still didn’t fit into the clothes the wardrobe department had tailored to his physique. This left him psychologically vulnerable and led to an unpleasant encounter with one of the show’s producers who basically told him to shape up or ship out. Stoll says,

This thing that I thought I had left in high school just recurred and there was no escaping it. I was in front of… millions of people. It was a sense of exposure of my deepest insecurities that was just crippling.

Motivated by the specter of unemployment, he started working out and ended the season in much fitter condition.

We have also mentioned Kimanzi Constable, the 332-pound fellow who took part in his brother’s wedding and was motivated by the resulting photos to lose weight. With a 1,200-calorie per day diet and four hours a day of exercise, a person couldn’t help shrinking, but there was much more to his story:

I lost 132 pounds in six months. Mission accomplished. Right?…Since I didn’t learn healthy habits I gained all that weight back plus 38 pounds that next year.

Then Constable’s best friend got married, resulting in another set of wedding photos featuring (this time) a 370-pound best man. He writes:

I worked so hard the first time—how could this happen again? On June 17 of 2013 I didn’t start my weight loss journey, I started the journey to create healthy habits that ultimately changed my life.

He lost 170 pounds in a year, and had much more success maintaining his weight at 200 pounds, rather than ballooning back up again. Healthy habits certainly had a lot to do with it, but this time there were also two special ingredients in the mix. He quit a job he hated, and fulfilled a dream of moving to the beautiful state of Hawaii. This story is but one more instance that proves the importance of getting to the root of problems, rather than only treating symptoms.

Of course, there are no guarantees. If a person has a basically bad attitude about work, changing employment won’t help. Also, many people delude themselves into thinking that the “geography cure” will solve their problems, but as the saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Still, in combination with improved habits and therapeutic breakthroughs, a change of life circumstances can sometime make all the difference.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Corey Stoll enjoys wig and new series stardom ,”, 07/13/14
Source: “Girl on Guy # 152,”, 09/30/14
Source: “7 Healthy Habits That Helped Me Lose 170 Pounds in One Year,”, 09/14/14
Image by Gage Skidmore

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Tales of the Formerly Fat Mon, 13 Apr 2015 10:00:11 +0000 Finish - St. Coca'sChildhood Obesity News has been looking into the lives and thoughts of some formerly obese people to see what can be learned. For a CNN iReport, Linda Roche shared the story of her earliest educational experiences:

By the time I started kindergarten I already had serious body image issues… In grade school my best friend was skinny as a rail. Together, kids referred to us as “skinny and fatty.” While the teasing hurt I didn’t know how to change things.

In the crucial summer following sixth grade, Roche lived with her grandmother, who had learned to maintain a healthy weight:

She taught me how to weigh and measure my food and count calories. She bought me Tabb to drink instead of sugary sodas and helped me stick to a reduced calorie diet. She also encouraged me to exercise. I did sit-ups, jumping jacks and walked every day. The weight began to come off and by the end of the summer I’d lost 22 pounds.

But—no surprise here—in middle school all the good lessons were forgotten and Roche was once again miserably overweight for a couple of years. Then, as it does for so many people, the prospect of high school gave new impetus to her determination to make a fresh start, and she devoted the summer vacation to that ambition. She charted her caloric intake and filled every possible minute with a variety of sports and exercise. The result:

I’ll never forget the thrill of ninth grade, blending in with the other students, no longer the butt of fat jokes and ridicule, free to be myself.

The ability to cook is a tremendous advantage, especially to someone without the means to sign up for those fancy prepackaged meal programs. Roche prepared ready-to-eat meals for herself, complete with calorie counts, and kept them either refrigerated or frozen. At mealtime, she could choose from a variety of quickly re-heatable dishes and avoid the temptation of snacking. Before the fall term started, she had lost 40 pounds, then lost another 10 during that school year, and maintained a pretty steady weight far into adulthood.

What a Formerly Fat Guy Learned

Christian Coleman, who used to weigh 275 pounds, trimmed 9 inches from his waistline over a year and a half. For he wrote about the experience, which was not unalloyed joy. With a reduced caloric intake, and without a layer of subcutaneous fat for insulation, he felt cold more readily. Also, there was the expense of buying new clothes every couple of months.

One result of slimming down is value-neutral, depending on the man. When out running, this particular fellow was uncomfortable about being stared at by women—but someone else might feel differently. Another consequence was totally positive. Back when he was bigger and worked out at a gym, Coleman used to be challenged by guys who thought they were tough. After weight loss, other men seemed to become more civil and less aggressive, and he no longer felt “that a fight would break out at any moment.”

People also provided negative reactions. Astonished at the visible difference in Coleman’s physique, some were eager to offer him weight-loss advice—even though he was the one who had shed many pounds. People also had the annoying habit of volunteering their lame excuses for not getting in shape themselves, as if he was the official weight loss monitor. Others would say, “You’re so lucky you can lose weight easily,” a borderline insult which, at the very least, discounted all the hard work he had put in.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Pain of Childhood Obesity–The Year I Changed It All,”, 07/21/14
Source: “7 Things No One Tells You About Losing 100 Pounds.”, 06/01/14
Image by Peter Mooney

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A Selection of Dr. Pretlow’s Conference Presentations Fri, 10 Apr 2015 10:00:35 +0000 ECO  1910

The reader will enjoy Dr. Pretlow’s account of his experiences at the 2009 ECOG  scientific meeting, where he conducted a plenary session and introduced the idea that the childhood obesity epidemic is caused by emotionally driven comfort eating, which often results in addiction. This idea was based, he explained, “on the anonymous posts of thousands of overweight and obese kids on my open-access website over the past 10 years.” He was referring, of course, to the children and teens who had communicated with his team via the Weigh2Rock website.

At the time, almost the entire medical profession was united in believing that the idea of food addiction, especially when applied to children, was provocative, sensationalistic, and inflammatory. (Spoiler alert: in the intervening years, largely because of Dr. Pretlow’s work, the concept has become much more widely accepted.)

2010: Uniting Against Childhood Obesity

In April of 2010, at the Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, Dr. Pretlow’s 55 minute plenary session presentation was titled “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic – What Kids Say.” At that gathering, he met the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. Dr. Pretlow suggested that the Department might benefit from asking kids exactly which foods caused them the most difficulty, in terms of being unable to either moderate their consumption or to stay away from those foods. If the government were to try regulating foods responsible for the obesity epidemic, those would logically be the ones to choose first. But the official was not interested.

Dr. Pretlow, of course, already knew a great deal about problem foods, having polled the Weigh2Rock participants. Potato chips are one of the most addictive foods for kids, and the work of other researchers has confirmed that the same is true of grownups. However, it is unlikely that the government will attempt to regulate potato chips like tobacco any time soon.

2010: Royal College of Physicians National Obesity Forum

October of 2010 took Dr. Pretlow to London for the Royal College of Physicians National Obesity Forum and a 22-minute plenary session presentation called “Why Are Children Overweight?” In that talk he explored the question of why kids overeat even though they hate to be fat, and hypothesized that binge eating might be an amalgam of comfort eating and displacement activity. He pointed out that knowledge about healthful eating, though extensively available, is not of much use to the young. What they really need is help in acquiring skills to stop the cravings that lead them to gorge on those problem foods. Slide 50 of the presentation is a mind-blowing compilation of replies from the Weigh2Rock kids and teens, defining the problem foods hardest for them to resist.

Dr. Pretlow also affirmed that, just like a hard drug addict, a compulsive over-eater develops tolerance to preferred substances. Again, this idea was considered outlandish by many of the forum’s attendees. But the similarity is undeniable. One universal characteristic of addiction is that the person quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns, where more and more of the substance delivers less and less of a reward. Another section of the talk (Slide 42) went over the idea of the “childhood obesity perfect storm.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

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Beyond Fat Acceptance Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:00:40 +0000 Now this one is more me!A website called Experience Project contains a personal history titled “I Am Fat and Have Been Almost My Whole Life.” The writer describes herself as five-foot-three, 298 pounds, and 13 years old. Her day starts with 3 tubs of ice cream, then Mom cooks her breakfast: toast, eggs, beans, pancakes, and two each of bacon sandwiches and sausage sandwiches. Then, for a mid-morning snack, she eats 6 slices of bread and butter.

Her 9,500-calorie lunch consists of 60 chicken nuggets, 5 servings of fast-food french fries, 5 gigantic, multiple-pattied hamburgers, soda, and a milkshake. The afternoon snack is a dozen donuts, and the evening meal two 16-piece buckets of fried chicken with french fries. And then of course there are the evening snacks. The teenager says that each of her parents weighs 400 pounds, and the home contains two refrigerators.

We can only hope this letter is a hoax, but have a sinking feeling that it is all too accurate. Undeniably, there are people who call themselves “gainers” and this is exactly the type of diet a gainer would require. This type of person embraces the obese condition and makes an active effort to become even larger. Fat acceptance morphs into fat pride and then into fat worship, and the people who are into this lifestyle say they belong to the “gaining community.”

Social Media for Gainers

Gainers award each other moral support through a wide variety of discussion forums, dating websites and blogs (we will not offer links because we don’t want to encourage the practice). But it is worth noting that all the fat worship websites cited in a 2010 news article still prosper. Gainers will say things like, “The only thing I love more than being fat is getting fatter.”

One man describes his life path as “a battle for the bulge,” and another apologizes to his followers for not posting pictures and descriptions of his holiday meals because “I didn’t really get to eat that much on Christmas day.” One site requires registration to even sneak a peek, because there are “an increased number of ‘tourists’ on the internet these days, looking to treat people and their interests as zoo exhibits of sorts…”

But many glorifiers of obesity are all too happy to have their activities revealed and, especially, their likenesses admired by fans. They resent the stereotype of laziness applied to fat people, because they work hard at maintaining and selling their obesity. A page reports, for instance, that…

Donna Simpson, a 42-year-old mother… raises money for her weekly $750 food budget through a web site where men pay to watch her eat.

Ms. Simpson is not the only professional in that field. Katy Winter of the Daily Mail reported on 29-year-old Denver resident Gabi Jones, a deliberate gainer who has accumulated 620 pounds of body weight on purpose and who says:

I think fat is art and I’m a masterpiece in the making.

Ms. Jones fills her personal website with photos and videos of herself, which purportedly “thousands of men” pay to enjoy, while sending her messages:

I want to feed you and get you bigger and more beautiful and treat you like a goddess.

Her story contains many more disturbing details which do not bear repeating here. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that “gainerism” is not recognized as a separate illness, which it obviously is. Compulsive overeating and binge eating satisfy emotional needs even as they destroy physical health, but the weight gain is a secondary side effect to the eating. Overeating with the distinct and purposeful intention of becoming as obese as possible is not the same thing at all, but the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) does not contain a category of mental illness that recognizes “gainerism” as a pathology.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “I Am Fat and Have Been Almost My Whole Life,”, undated
Source: “Gainer blogs glorify obesity,”, 04/16/10
Source: “The 600-pound woman who says: ‘I only want to get fatter!’,”, 10/03/14
Image by muffinn


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Varieties of Fat Acceptance Wed, 08 Apr 2015 10:00:55 +0000 Botero on Plaza de Santo Domingo

Fernando Botero Sculpture

The varieties of fat acceptance range from mild to extreme. In the realm of health and safely, obesity must be acknowledged as something that exists in society, and is likely to continue for some time. Take the crash test dummy, for example, a useful innovation that expresses a necessary form of fat acceptance that can save lives. This simulacrum of a human is not just a figure with limbs and a head, but a calibrated test instrument.

With such a tool, designers can measure what acceleration, impact, and other forces do to a human body, and help to maximize safety for the drivers and other occupants of motor vehicles. Until the relatively recent past, the heaviest available dummy represented a 170-pound human. A few months ago, one company kicked the technology up a notch by adding additional mass to a male figure:

The first of its kind, Humanetics’ Obese Crash Test Dummy is based on the measurements of a 273-pound person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35… The preliminary analysis confirms that the obese dummy’s seated posture translates further forward on the seat compared to a non-obese occupant and changes the seat belt positioning, thereby creating new challenges for effective restraint countermeasures and knee impact protection.

The Fat Studies Reader, written by Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay, suggests that obesity, like homosexuality, is a condition that places its victims in an unsought niche of identity politics. The results may not even be particularly dire, but people become labeled as something that they may not wish to claim as their primary identity. Female comedians and novelists, for instance, do not like to be relegated to a “woman” subcategory, but would rather be recognized only as comedians and novelists.

Since a gay gene was discovered, tolerance of homosexuality has increased. The argument this book seems to make is that the discoveries of various fat genes should inspire the same degree of tolerance and compassion, and the realization that obesity is no more a choice than homosexuality is.

Plus-Size Fashion and Fun

The fashion industry has introduced the Full Figured Entertainer of the Year Award. Only weeks ago, Sports Illustrated magazine made history by including a plus-size model in its annual Swimsuit Issue.

In two Southern California locations, a night spot called Club Bounce plays host to hundreds of people on the weekends, all BBWs (Big Beautiful Women), BHMs (Big Handsome Men) and FAs (Fat Admirers). The performers are big too, like a female quartet called the Glamazons. Plus-size partiers don’t skulk around in hipster black, but love to dress in brightly colored clothes. There seems to be a general feeling amongst the obese revelers that they are more real and honest than normal-weight people, and more than one woman has told the press, “I get hit on more now than when I was skinny.”

With or without mainstream approval, it looks as if a very high degree of fat acceptance is here to stay.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Crash Test Dummies,”, 2015
Source: “Women at Club Bounce are living large,”, 08/21/13
Image by Erik Cleves Kristensen


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Self-Image and the Formerly Fat Tue, 07 Apr 2015 10:00:05 +0000 White Wedding

Sometimes, photographic images help to form people’s self-images, particularly around issues of obesity, but not always. Childhood Obesity News has looked at various strange relationships between people and their pictures. For the Good Men Project, Kimanzi Constable wrote of how he was first inspired to lose weight by his brother’s wedding in 2007. A tuxedo had to be special-ordered for him, and that was bad enough, but the real blow came when he saw the wedding pictures. He remembers:

I was appalled to see how big I looked. I cried myself to sleep that night. I woke up the next day determined to lose the weight.

Actor Corey Stoll, who played Rep. Peter Russo in “House of Cards,” was an obese teenager, with 310 pounds plastered onto a 6′ 2” frame. He lost 100 pounds for college, but has fluctuated a bit since then, and calls himself, “a fitness fanatic for a few months every year.” Stoll admits that he still sees a fat kid in the mirror. But he turns that liability into an asset by making it a tool of his trade:

I’m at peace with the fact that I have a certain degree of dysmorphia… No matter how successful I get, I’ll always have easy access to what it feels like to be that outcast, to feel separate, with that level of self-loathing. It’s not who I am now, but it’s there. And it’s never gonna go away.

But what about kids who are too young to know what a photograph is, or what the words “childhood obesity” mean? Remember the little Colombian girl who at the age of 10 months weighed as much as a kindergartener? Her slender, unemployed mother was at a loss to explain the baby’s sudden, freakish increase in size. Fortunately, earlier this year they connected with Gorditas de Corazon, an organization that specializes in helping children who experience unexplained and overwhelming weight gain.

At the moment, life in a caring medical environment represents normalcy. For a one-year-old, as long as Mom is on the scene, all is right with the world. With no basis for comparison, for all Juanita knows, her life is exactly the same as that of any other child. She may never have seen any of the newspapers, magazines or websites that have published pictures of her, and if she has, her brain is probably not ready yet to make the connection between the image and the body she lives in.

The Future for an Obese Infant

Now, imagine the trajectory of young Juanita’s life. What if her morbid obesity has an origin so obscure that no medical team, however dedicated, can change its course? Maybe she will grow up to be one of the most obese women on the planet. Or maybe one of the many possible co-morbidities will claim her life tragically early. But let’s make the optimistic prediction that the clinic will be able to help, and that in a few months or years, little Juanita will indeed be appropriately small and will not stand out in glaring contrast to her age mates.

Even with a best-case outcome, there will surely be annual checkups. At some point, the child will wonder why she, unlike her friends, has to show up for a bunch of medical tests every so often. Will her mother try to shield her from the knowledge that she was a world-wide celebrity before her first birthday? Would that even be possible? If Juanita attains and maintains a normal weight, what will her teen years and adulthood be like? How will it affect her to know that anyone with Internet access can retrieve numerous images of her as a notoriously fat baby?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “7 Healthy Habits That Helped Me Lose 170 Pounds in One Year, 09/14/14
Source: “Heading ‘Strain’ cast, Stoll once was an outcast, 07/09/14
Image by Photocapy

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Images and Self-Image Mon, 06 Apr 2015 10:00:04 +0000 Big Butts

Every day, knowingly or not, we meet up with people who used to carry around excessive weight, and who somehow figured out how to get rid of it. More importantly, they figured out how to make it stay gone. We meet them online too, in discussion groups and in the comment sections attached to articles. Very often, formerly obese people express a sentiment that is some variation of these words:

I look at old photos, and can’t believe how fat I was, and I never knew.

That seems like it should be an enormous clue. People don’t realize how big they are, not even when they see themselves reflected in a mirror. Sometimes a photo helps, not only in retrospect but in present time. To see a picture of oneself from the back can be a serious shock, because the mirror doesn’t show that part.

Another factor is that the world has changed so much over a short period. Many people reading this grew up in a time when pictures were taken twice a year, during summer vacation and the winter holidays. Then, because developing was expensive, the roll of film might be left in the camera for six months. When they were eventually printed, the photos were stuck into album page, and life went on.

On the other hand, others who read this page grew up with the technology that enabled them to constantly pose for pictures and to find their images captured, sometimes dozens of time per day, in candid shots.

In relation to self-awareness of being overweight, either scenario can be a problem. When photos were a relatively rare commodity, the information might just never “land” for a person. Conversely, it is also possible that over-familiarity with one’s own image, no matter how obviously obese, can have a dulling effect. Or perhaps some kind of magical thinking comes into play—“Sure, I was fat in that picture taken yesterday, but I’m a lot thinner now.”

Finding a Goal for Weight Loss

Photos can be problematic in other ways. A Reddit contributor expressed her concern with not knowing what goal weight to aim for, because she has never looked good at any stage of her life. Other women have reference points, like “I want to look like my prom photos,” or “I want to get back to how I was the first year in California.” Someone who has always been obese has no such golden-haloed landmarks.

Whether influenced by photos or not, people go through different stages of preparedness for weight loss. Another Reddit participant wrote:

While I have not really started my weight loss journey yet (I’ll be honest, I’m procrastinating big time on top of work and school), I have at least reached a point mentally where I’ve mostly stopped beating myself up for being fat.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “I’m a pe teacher who needs advice about a morbidly obese student,”, 01/28/14
Source: “Hello! HamPlanet Boogie2988 here,”, 10/28/13
Image by R4vi

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