Fathers and Obesity


While discussing epigeneticsChildhood Obesity News has mentioned Eric Boodman before. He said:

It isn’t just our genes and our parenting that determines the health of our children: it could be our lifestyle, too.

This warning came from Boston’s Joslin Diabetes Center, which has been learning more and more about how a father’s physical condition influences a baby. Epigenetic markers reveal that dads and their eating patterns can have previously unexpected effects on babies, even before conception.

This connection shows up in various ways. When a man has bariatric surgery and loses a massive amount of weight, his sperm even look different that they did before. It appears that epigenetic changes, which trigger gene expression, may carry over into succeeding generations. Although it requires very complicated and highly structured studies, scientists are currently exploring why and how that happens.

A man’s consciousness that his lifestyle choices might echo through the generations is a heavy burden to bear. However, a tool exists to help a prospective father change his life for the better, and any male who contemplates fathering a child could begin right now to optimize that child’s chances for a long and healthy life.

Yes, it was designed for kids, but there is no earthly reason why it can’t benefit a grownup even more, because adults own certain types of experience and motivation that are not available to children. We recommend the W8Loss2Go program and smartphone application to any potential father who wants to prepare by getting into the best physical, mental and emotional shape before conception actually takes place. The perfect time to start is now.

Other paternal news

A few years back, the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior published a study by Texas AgriLife Research which showed that lenient fathers are more likely to buy fast-food meals for their children, and stricter fathers are more likely to insist on full-service restaurants when the family eats out.

The study was somewhat longitudinal study, encompassing 15 months. One of its conclusions was, of course, that “The only instances of mothers being more lax on the use of fast-food restaurants are those who are neglectful and those who are highly committed to their work.” Another was that fathers need to be better educated in nutrition.

A short time later, the University of Alberta released the results of a metastudy that used data from 135 studies, and determined that the early markers “most consistently associated with or predictive of adult obesity” include childhood growth patterns, childhood obesity, maternal body mass index, and father employment.

Father employment is what they call a “proxy measure for socioeconomic status.” It is not clear whether the researchers meant that working fathers are more likely to have overweight kids, on account of being able to afford food; or whether employed fathers are more likely to have overweight kids because they are cared for by irresponsible mothers who take them to fast-food outlets rather than to sit-down restaurants.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A father’s sperm could predict whether his child will be obese,” StatNews.com, 12/03/15
Source: “Dads more likely than moms to impact childhood obesity,” ScienceBlog.com, 06/09/11
Source: “Early Childhood Factors ID’d for Predicting Adult Obesity,” DoctorsLounge.com, 12/29/11
Photo credit: wavebreakmediamicro/123RF Stock Photo

Additional Posts About Cravings


We have mentioned Slide 26 from “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model,” which Dr. Pretlow presented at the Global Conference on Obesity Treatment and Weight Management. There is more to Slide 26. Here is a quotation about the illusory sensation of brain hunger, which also sounds an awful lot like withdrawal symptoms:

When the person tries to resist it, that seems to make it worse. The only thing that seems to help is to give in, and of course that reinforces it, and the whole cycle repeats. An analogy that the patients in my studies talked about, they said it’s like a kid they’re babysitting for that just continues to bug them until they do something for that kid.

The most recent post, “Encyclopedia of Cravings,” was misnamed, because not all previous posts about cravings have been mentioned yet. Today, we revisit the six-part series called “How to Vanquish Food Cravings.”

The first section emphasized again the awkward position that babies and children occupy as a result of their helplessness. They can’t drive to the health-food store for avocado mayonnaise. On the upside, this infantile passivity is ideal for parents who are conscientious about feeding their kids fresh vegetables and keeping potato chips out of the house.

When we looked at the research done by a team of psychologists on the precise question of “Why do we get intense desires to eat certain foods?,” the subject of imagery came up again.

Part 2 mentioned adequate hydration, which is one of the most underrated tips for people who don’t want food issues to rule their lives. However, the subject can get complicated, because the water that comes out of American faucets is not what it used to be. Plastic bottles are even worse, leaching chemicals that are accused of instigating many harmful health conditions, including obesity.

The post also mentioned Vitamin D, sleep, magnesium-glycinate, and pickles. Part 3 brought up cinnamon, and included some tips from kids who respond to the Weigh2Rock website.

The world is full of former smokers who chew on toothpicks, as well as W8Loss2Go participants who squeeze their hands together for distraction. Compulsive overeating appears to be at least as much a behavioral addiction as a substance addiction. If a lot of the eating that people do is actually displacement activity meant to assuage stress, it makes sense that an undesired behavior can be replaced by a new, substitute behavior.

Part 4 had more to say about distraction, and Part 5 leaped into the strange world of wireheading, aka deep brain stimulation, while Part 6 dealt with fat, cortisol, psychological stress, and mindfulness.

Planning to be in or near Lisbon, Portugal, in early July? Dr. Pretlow’s 90-minute workshop, “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity as an Addictive Process,” just might be for you.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: miss pupik via Visualhunt/CC BY

Encyclopedia of Cravings


This is the fourth Childhood Obesity News post collecting some of the highlights of all the posts about cravings, appetites, yens, and yearnings.

Roads Out of Temptationville” looks at the notion that there are several different ways to approach cravings. A very small spreadsheet with Body, Mind and Emotions as the horizontal elements and Avoid, Protect and Defend as the vertical categories will yield three-squared possibilities, which we described as nine possible roads out of Temptationville. In the quest for a healthy, normal-weight population, every one of them is worth exploring.

Gut Feelings” considered the relationship between cravings and the intestinal tract, and discussed how W8Loss2Go can help a young person, or indeed someone of any age, to unhook and free themselves from problem foods. The post also incidentally mentioned a very sad gastric bypass anecdote.

The Science of Food Cravings” touches on self-medication, impulse control, brain scans, the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, endogenous mood-correcting chemicals, chocolate, sushi, cognitive defusion, and other relevant subjects.

An excerpt from that post says:

If a person wakes up craving figs, it might be a signal from the body saying, “I need iron.” But the craving for chocolate, in most cases, indicates something entirely different — a need for emotional comfort.

Sometimes food cravings are indistinguishable from withdrawal symptoms. “Cravings Not Gone Yet” mentioned more brain research, concerning addictive substances, and looked at a difference of opinion between two experts over the nutritional deficiency theory of food cravings.

Science has found many examples of how an expectant mother’s diet can affect a fetus. From his clinical observations, Dr. Douglas Hunt traced a childish love for junk food back to salinated commercial baby foods, and from there back to excessive salt in the mom’s diet when she was carrying the child.

Who Has It Worse?” examined the question of which human age group experiences the greatest difficulty in adhering to a healthful diet. Babies in the womb are in the most helpless situation, of course, with zero knowledge and no ability to exercise autonomy. They have to take what they are given, and not expect more nutrients, or different ones.

We also looked at a theory put forward by health columnist Melinda Beck, which features the phrase “embrace and control,” which sounds like a very dangerous way to approach a condition that acts exactly like an addiction. “Embrace and control” is what heroin addicts deceive themselves into believing that they are doing.

Finally, “The Microbiome Gains Ground” explores a whole new realm of possibilities, such as the likelihood that some of “our” food cravings are actually prompted by bacteria in the digestive system that have their own agendas.


Dr. Pretlow will conduct a 90-minute workshop on “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity as an Addictive Process” at the International Conference on Childhood Obesity, July 5-8, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: pir8ess via Visualhunt/CC BY

Banish Doughnuts, Popularize Carrots


A challenging fact about treatment modalities is that for some patients, some things work spectacularly well, and for others, not so much. Or, to frame the issue more positively, take, for example, people who love to run. Evidence could be found that running at a certain time of day, with a certain number of recently acquired calories on board, is optimal.

But if that person is motivated to run in the middle of the night, on an empty stomach, and has a suitable environment to do it in, then why not? Even if perfect health is not the result, isn’t this method preferable to not running at all? It works for them. As a popular song once expressed the concept, “Different strokes for different folks.”

We mentioned the Elaborated Intrusion Theory which suggests that a craving is associated with an image, perhaps of luscious plump fragrant doughnuts that glisten with sweet frosting. But the mind can be outsmarted by replacing that picture with a different one. In relation to obesity prevention, this is meaningful, which is why the benevolent trick is a facet of the W8Loss2Go program.

Distraction is a legitimate technique, and visual “white noise” can distract, and furthermore it can calm a person down. Find out more about this and other details of the smartphone application that can help people of any age to achieve their goals for themselves, in “Vanquish Food Cravings with W8 Loss 2 Go.”

What happens

The troubling image of a problem food is replaced by another image that is no image — a randomly generated non-pattern of white noise. It appears that for many people, the content-free, ever-changing visual stimulation can divert the mind sufficiently to quell cravings.

Dynamic Visual Noise in History” looks at the presence of this type of optic stimulation in the past. The earliest humans, by staring at a flickering campfire, or the sunlight reflecting from the ripples in a pond, or the captivating motion of aspen leaves in the slightest breeze, could achieve a peaceful state of mind, with nary a craving in sight.

Through art or technology, various cultures have found ways to imitate these natural phenomena. Nowadays, people look at computer-generated videos of beautiful animated fractal designs, but fanciness is not the point here.

Again, history provides proof. In the old days of black-and-white television, the reception might be bad enough so that the set only showed “static,” or “snow,” which usually looked pretty much like the illustration on this page.

Sometimes a person would be found staring at this apparent nothingness, and a family member would worry about that relative’s sanity. Little did either of them know that they were in the presence of a therapeutic stress-reduction method that had been useful for millennia, and would eventually be better understood.

The Origins and Power of Food Cravings” contains some amazing information about how to convince children to eat vegetables. This post and the two previous ones work together to present a compendium of information about cravings. Another will follow.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by W8Loss2Go

The World of Food Cravings


The previous post and this one gather together some of the information that has been considered about cravings, urges, appetites, and temptation. Where do cravings come from, and how, aside from taping one’s own mouth shut, can they be quelled? Among the overweight and obese, this knowledge is valued far above nutrition facts, on which, as Dr. Pretlow’s constituents put it, they have long ago overdosed.

By now, most people pretty much know what is good for them to eat and what ought to be shunned. What they really need to know is how to not experience cravings for food-like substances that are not good for them. Researchers have devoted a ton of time and energy to figuring out the mystery of cravings. In “The Compulsion of Food Cravings” we characterized the problem as “the star of the whole childhood obesity epidemic.”

Appetites have three different points of origin — physical, emotional and mental. There are three possible effective counter-forces: avoidance, protection and defense. By simple multiplication, this makes nine points at which cravings can be addressed.

We discussed here how one of the major and most contentious sources of craving creation is advertising. Ads for junk food and fizzy drinks constitute a massive, lavishly funded assault on the malleable and impressionable minds of children.

The dilemma of youth

Unfortunately, one of the most important avoidance techniques is to change the person’s environment. “Unfortunate” is the word used, because for children, changing their environment is a tall order. Even a child who goes away for summer “fat camp” will in most cases be delivered back into the same home with the same parents and siblings, in the same neighborhood, to start a new year at school with the same friends. In practical terms, the “avoidance” technique may prove totally useless for a minor who has few choices in terms of exercising her or his own volition.

We quoted Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, on the subject of willpower, to which brain-scan experiments with cocaine addicts seemed to lend some credence. This is a good opportunity to quote another expert, Dr. Vera Tarman, medical director of Canada’s preeminent drug and alcohol rehab institution, Renascent. She describes willpower as a real but limited gatekeeper, which inspires the listener to think of Will Power as a hulking fellow who guards the door of a nightclub — but if someone manages to slip through the door, he can’t chase them inside.

How many adults can unfailingly exert willpower? Sadly, the answer is “few.” Expecting it from children is ridiculous.

Elaborated Intrusion Theory and a Toy” explores the idea that food cravings are intimately connected with the ability to form a mental image. If the mental picture can be made to dissolve, the craving is weakened and disarmed.

Elaborated Intrusion Theory is an invention of psychology. The goal is to selectively block the cognitive processes needed for imagery, and this leads to reduced desire, aka less craving. Here is a quotation from that post:

One way of selectively blocking is to ask the experimental subject to conjure up a neutral picture, like a field full of wildflowers. This second visualization counteracts the first image by pushing it aside. Another way of selectively blocking is to present a neutral yet interesting visual stimulus for the brain to latch onto, keeping it too busy to imagine chocolate-covered bacon.

We recommended a paper titled “Conscious and Unconscious Processes in Human Desire,” written by Jackie Andrade, Jon May and David Kavanagh, which gives a thorough but not easily summarized explanation.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Guest Post: Food Abstinence for Food Addicts: Deprivation or a New Freedom?,” DrSharma.ca, February 2015
Photo credit: David Simmonds via Visualhunt/ CC BY-SA

Brain Hunger


The illustration on this page is from “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model,” presented at the Global Conference on Obesity Treatment and Weight Management. Among other subjects, Dr. Pretlow discussed body hunger, which has a basis in physiological reality. Brain hunger, on the other hand, has the illusory quality of an emotion, because that is what it is — an emotion masquerading as a legitimate sensation.

Most of the time, when we think we need food, we don’t need food. We need a hug or a foot massage, or some good news. The point is, what we perceive as need is something much less authentic. What we think of as “need” is usually just plain old “want.”

Why do we want anything? Usually, as relief from any kind of stress. Even good stress, like preparing for a wedding, is still stress.

There is another word for this kind of bogus need, which is craving. Childhood Obesity News has amassed an archive of posts about the theory and practice of craving. “Fast Food, Hospitals, and Cravings” examined the implications of a paper cup imprinted with the image of a happy teenage girl and the words, “I’m a candy craver!”

Cravings and Temptations” offers some tips on how to tell the difference between a craving and a need, and words from a British expert on the futility of trying to train 8- and 9-year-olds (or, more likely, their parents) in the art of packing a nutritious school day lunch. As chef Jamie Oliver discovered when he visited the USA, the homemade lunches assembled by American parents were no better.

Uncontrollable Cravings and Food Addiction” follows the story of Amanda, one of the young people who have corresponded over the years with Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website. Incidentally, this is where kids can connect for a live chat with Lucy, a Registered Dietician who used to be an overweight teen. The topics cover parents, exercise, bullying and teasing, holidays, goals, stress, and, of course, cravings.

Welcome to Temptationville” talks more about cravings, which originate from inside a person, and temptation, the falsely induced craving that is purposely and cynically set up by our culture of ubiquitous advertising. And “Welcome Back to Temptationville” discusses holidays and the difficulty of dealing with the universal equation of feeding with hospitality, and the unavoidable relationship that often exists between churches and food.

All About Food Cravings” touches on binge eating disorder, and “The Mystery of Food Cravings” delves into Australian research on the psychology behind the nagging reminders that food is everywhere and introduces a tool that can help to distract the mind from the constant barrage of propaganda that says, “Eat! Eat! Eat!”

Next time: More highlights from the full roster of posts about cravings.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image: Slide 26, “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model”

Body Hunger


A couple of previous posts had a lot to say about the presentation Dr. Pretlow took to the Global Conference on Obesity Treatment and Weight Management not long ago. The relevant topics are body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) and the extreme overlap between that and compulsive eating. Eating addiction is a fairly nuanced subject area, and finding answers within it could contribute a lot toward solving the worldwide obesity epidemic.

The presentation is titled “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model.” The discussion has to do with overeating addiction, which appears to be a combination of comfort eating and nervous eating, and might really not have a whole lot to do with particular substances. Still, although debate may exist over substance addiction versus behavioral addiction, the “A word” is operative in both cases.

The weight of history

Dr. Pretlow goes on to talk about the difference between body hunger and brain hunger. Body hunger is our natural state, which humans have lived in for most of history.

Obviously body hunger is quite tolerable, because people tolerated it daily for thousands of years when unable to hunt or gather enough calories to eat. When a hunting party has to follow an animal for days, waiting for it to finally drop dead from the blood loss caused by a single spear thrust, they remain hungry in the meantime. Back home, the people who are waiting for a share stay hungry even longer.

Throughout history, the most common occupation held by men has been soldier, and soldiers stayed hungry. No taco trucks accompanied Caesar’s armies. Supply caravans were attacked and looted, or bogged down by weather. To make sure the invaders would have nothing to eat, fleeing natives slaughtered their own livestock and burned the crops behind them, and went on to become starving refugees themselves.

The planet has known billions of hungry people, most of whom achieved normal lifespans. In fact, caloric restriction has been touted as promoting longevity, while at the same time, enthusiasm for the theory has waxed and waned.

The field of life extension generates a lot of attention, and is so important that it even inspires gratifying impulses toward cooperation. For TIME.com, Maia Szalavitz wrote about the research originating from different institutions:

It’s not entirely clear why the two monkey studies had such varying results… To understand why the NIA and Wisconsin groups got such different results, they plan to collaborate to fully analyze the data generated by the two trials. “We consider our two studies to be complementary, not competitive,” says [primate scientist Ricki] Colman, “We have plans to work together to directly compare information from our two studies.” The result, they hope, may be some version of the Fountain of Youth.

The secret is balance, not volume. People do fine on 30% or even 50% less calorie intake, as long as the vital nutrients are all in place.

Back to “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model”

Returning to the presentation, a short audio collection of highlights is available for listening. The podcast touches upon the problems with the conventional model of childhood obesity, and presents the addiction model and effective treatment methods. Readers might also be interested in this conference workshop, and in the news that Dr. Pretlow’s 90-minute symposium submission was accepted by the World Congress of Psychiatry, which will take place in Berlin in October.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Want to Live Longer? Don’t Try Caloric Restriction,” TIME.com, 08/29/12
Photo credit: Jennifer McLinden (Mrs. Fogey) via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

Laugh Your Way to Thin, Says Coke


A while back, Childhood Obesity News related how The Praxis Project instituted a lawsuit against the Coca-Cola Company. One issue is the giant corporation’s insistence that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) have nothing to do with obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular disorders. Additionally, although Coke supposedly has a Responsible Marketing Policy, it is not much of a policy and little responsibility is demonstrated.

The bottom line is liability, because losing this court action would open the door to other legal matters, like a class-action lawsuit brought by some portion of America’s estimated 30 million diabetics. Although corporations routinely set aside part of the budget in the expectation of paying out millions for legal fees and punitive settlements, there is a limit to how much they are willing to sacrifice.

The people at Praxis are especially incensed because Coke’s policy is to blame the consumers for their obesity, heart problems and diabetes. Members of the public are expected to perform the daily exercise required to burn off all the calories they take on board. If people are not smart or ambitious enough to do what is necessary to offset the SSBs they consume, that is not Coke’s problem.

The Praxis lawsuit also targets the American Beverage Association (ABA), which basically covers every non-alcoholic liquid including bottled water. With the dues collected from its members, the ABA pays millions of dollars each year to dozens of lobbyists from several different firms, whose job is to brainwash legislators and the public.

The beverage industry’s problem

According to those who keep track of such things, “The market’s performance was the strongest seen in several years.” But that refers to the entire refreshment beverage field, which yearly adds new categories including, now, “value-added water.” In America, however, carbonated soft drinks are seeing their lowest consumption level in 30 years.

SSBs go down, while water, ready-to-drink coffee and energy drinks go up. Ideally, from the industry’s point of view, sweet fizzy drinks ought to enjoy increased sales too. Everything ought to continue growing and growing until there is no room on the planet for anything but storage tanks full of refreshment beverages.

The adults are busy quaffing sports drinks and canned or bottled coffee, but who is out there still excited about SSBs? Children and young people! And this is the crux of the Praxis lawsuit.

The Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief states:

Although Defendant Coca-Cola promised that it would not advertise sugar sweetened beverages to children, it has advertised to children on a massive scale. A primary purpose of these ongoing campaigns of disinformation and misrepresentation is to maintain and increase the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages…

Other corporate baloney includes material on the urgency of “essential hydration” and messages implying that SSBs provide this.

Writing for Forbes, Nancy Fink Huehnergarth mentioned this gem:

The “Be Ok” advertising campaign, which implied that everyday, light activities like laughing for 75 seconds or doing a victory jig in the bowling alley, would offset the health damage from consuming sugary drink…

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Press Release: The U.S. Liquid Refreshment Beverage Market Accelerated Again in 2016,” BeverageMarketing.com, 04/19/17
Source: “Even If It Fails, Lawsuit Accusing Coca-Cola Of Consumer Deception Could Yield Benefits For Health Advocates,” Forbes.com, 01/06/17
Photo credit: retroclipart/123RF Stock Photo

The Confusing World of Fat Shame


In “Shaming Fat-Shaming,” Childhood Obesity News observed that vocabulary is a big problem in many areas of contemporary life, to the point where people become frustrated with what they consider to be excessive “political correctness.” We looked at how misunderstandings about terminology by well-meaning people have drawn fire.

Female physicians don’t particularly wish to be known as lady doctors, and plus-size models would rather be just plain models. To Ashley Graham, of Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover fame, the “plus-size” description is isolating.

However, the rest of the world insists upon its right to differentiate between rail-thin models and, you know, the other kind. Apparently there is, within the profession, controversy over what descriptive term would be acceptable.

One problem with the culture’s insistence on fat-shaming is that it encourages a certain type of man to feel entitled to judge and comment on every female figure in sight. Scuzzy dudes boldly rank women by a numerical score, which used to be a habit they kept to themselves. Now, all ids are unleashed and a lot of males are perfectly comfortable making loud proclamations like, “She may be a Minnesota 9, but she’s only a Hollywood 5.”


Liz Dwyer opined to TakePart.com that the media’s ubiquitous body-shaming contributes to the misbehavior of men in New York City. Unpleasant encounters are difficult to avoid in the metropolis where very few residents have their own cars, and must endure the vulnerability of walking on streets and using public transportation. For many women, catcalling and more intrusive forms of harassment are everyday occurrences.

The body type favored by fashion magazine editors, and every advertiser in the world, is of a slimness that only 5% of women naturally possess, the writer explains. This is bad news for the vast majority of girls who are at a healthy weight, but grow up expecting to be held to the unrealistic skinny-minnie standard. Of course they stress out about it, and in the years that should be devoted to preparation for self-sufficient adulthood, they are distracted by thoughts of diet products, liposuction and bariatric surgery.

Two summers ago, when a rash of what Dwyer calls “body-shaming promotions” showed up in New York City’s buses and subway cars, two groups, National Women’s Liberation and Redstockings of the Women’s Liberation Movement, made their displeasure known.

In the grand old tradition of “billboard correction” committees, the groups resurrected a slogan first used in 1969 and had stickers printed up emblazoned with the words “This Oppresses Women.” These stickers were liberally applied to the offending posters, and their reach was multiplied by social media photo sharing. New York was not the only locus of activity.

Dwyer wrote about the beach-body promotions:

In April in the United Kingdom, the ads sparked a protest in London’s Hyde Park and led to commuters’ defacing them across the city’s subway system. After receiving more than 350 complaints, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority said in a statement that it was yanking the ads from London Underground trains and stations “due to our concerns about a range of health and weight loss claims made in the ad.”

But, really, chalk it up to the angry women.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Clever Way Women Are Striking Back Against Body-Shaming Ads,” TakePart.com, 06/25/15
Image by @AnnieTummino

Happy Memorial Day!


Happy Memorial Day!

There’s no post today. We will return with a new post tomorrow.

Enjoy the holiday!

Image by nito500/123RF Stock Photo.

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