Childhood Obesity on Native American Day

Contemporary Indian DanceThere seems to be some confusion about Native American Day. One source says it is today, the fourth Friday in September. Another source says it is today, Friday, but designates the date as the 24th, which was yesterday. The big surprise is that it appears to be unconnected with Native American Heritage Month, which will occur in November, the month after next. The reason we’re talking about it here is because Native Americans have a higher rate of diabetes and childhood obesity than other ethnic groups.

In discussing this topic, we run into another area where matters are not quite clear. Most white Americans have, by now, been indoctrinated into accepting “Native American” as the only acceptable politically correct terminology. Yet many so-called Native Americans insist that the appellation was created by the white media, and they don’t like it. A large number of people from this heritage think “American Indian” is fine, but really prefer just plain old Indian.

Multiple award-winning author Sherman Alexie, who grew up on a reservation, has published books titled The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Toughest Indian in the World. An undated and puzzlingly unattributed academic paper from St. John’s University says this:

Alexie’s works are important because they raise awareness of problems that Native American communities around the country face, such as pervasive alcoholism and diabetes… According to the American Diabetes Association, 30% of all Native Americans (including Alaskan Natives) have pre-diabetes… There has been a 68% increase in diabetes between 1994 and 2004 in the Native American communities.

Historically, like the members of many indigenous cultures with grim economic situations, American Indians have regarded fleshiness as a sign of health and success. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

American Indian/Alaska Natives have the highest adult obesity rate, 54 percent, of any racial or ethnic group.

The prevailing custom is to include American Indians and Alaska Natives together in one cohort, familiarly known as AI/AN. Among this ethnic group, 31.2 percent of the four-year-olds were obese, as of 2009. Why the website of the National Indian Health Board does not have fresher numbers is not explained. In May of 2010, the NIHB issued a position paper titled “Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative.” It explains that these children are at risk of…

…type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, asthma, sleep apnea, low self-esteem, depression and social discrimination…
And the top ten leading causes of death in the AI/AN population are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, diabetes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, suicide, nephritis and influenza… all of which are exacerbated by obesity.

As if all that were not bad enough, a recent study found that in Alaska’s Native population, childhood obesity correlates highly with the witnessing of abuse and violence in the family. Poverty is widespread and the people consume an outrageous amount of sugar. Why do they imbibe so many sugar-sweetened drinks? Apparently, drinking water is not readily available. This article also gives more recent and increasingly distressing information about the obesity rates in various age groups.

On the brighter side, the Navajo nation recently became the first part of the United States to impose a tax on junk food.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Native American vs. American Indian: Political correctness dishonors traditional chiefs of old,”, 04/12/15
Source: “Humor for Social Change,”, 2015
Source: “New Report Finds 23 of 25 States with Highest Rates of Obesity are in the South and Midwest,, 09/21/15
Source: “Obesity Prevention/Strategies in Native Youth,, undated
Source: “Study suggests link between domestic violence and obesity in Native children,”, 05/23/15
Image by Jeff Kubina

Publicity-Chasing Fat-Shamer Fails to Impress

whitney way thore

Earlier this month, there was a big media flap when Canadian comedian Nicole Arbour posted a 6-minute video titled “Dear Fat People” on YouTube. People reacted by calling it all kinds of names including “most offensive video EVER,” and both YouTube and Google+ temporarily took down Arbour’s channels from their respective sites.

In this work, Arbour (who is herself a piece of work) expressed various sentiments about overweight people. For instance, she offered the suggestion that parking spaces for the obese should be at the far end of the parking lot to encourage exercise, because letting them have handicapped spaces close to the store is the moral equivalent of assisted suicide. This isn’t the harshest thing she said, but it will do for an example: “If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that.”

Immediate Pushback

There was, of course, widespread criticism, to which Arbour responded via social media by noting that she is the first comedian in the history of YouTube to be censored. This is probably not accurate, and anyone interested in knowing more about it can ask comedian Brian Redban, among others.

Fat-shaming was not the only issue to which commentators reacted. Among the many allegations flung back and forth were accusations of sexism (because a male comic would not have faced such criticism for saying the same things), and a suspicion that Arbour deleted her YouTube channel herself to attract the sympathy due a repressed artist.

Emily Shire of The Daily Beast wrote:

While likely a gesture of support for overweight and obese people, YouTube’s alleged censorship enabled Arbour to claim the title of free-speech warrior and gloss over the inaccuracies in her rant….The true failure of Arbour’s fat-shaming rant was not its insensitivity or even its lack of humor, but that it was full of misinformation about the very real discrimination people who are overweight and obese face….However, a nuanced conception of weight maintenance is completely absent from Arbour’s video. Instead, the comedian seems to genuinely believe you can tease and torture people into weight loss.

Career-wise, posting that video appears not to have been the smartest move Arbour could have made. Film director Pat Mills, who had planned to hire her to choreograph some dance scenes for an upcoming movie, characterized “Dear Fat People” as unfunny, lame, and cruel, and announced that he never wanted to see Arbour again. In terms of entertainment value, the reply video made by the delightful Whitney Way Thore was far superior. She said, among other things:

I have polycystic ovarian syndrome. While PCOS is not the only reason I turned from a 130 pound 18-year-old to an over-300-pound woman right now, it is a really big contributing factor. So I’m so glad that you’re not talking about me. Except, you are talking about me, because you can’t see a person’s health from looking at them.

Thore points out that it’s pretty much impossible to know, from observation alone, whether someone has a medical condition. Or maybe they just lost their 100th pound after working for a year. Over all, this whole controversy has only succeeded in showing, once more, how truly useless fat-shaming is.

The photo on this page, incidentally, shows Whitney Way Thore practicing with her dance partner.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Comedian shut down after ‘Dear Fat People’ goes viral,”, 09/07/15
Source: “_YouTube ‘Martyr’ Nicole Arbour Is Wrong About Fat-Shaming,”, 09/08/15
Source: “’Dear Fat People’ comedian loses job over ‘fat phobic’ video,”, 09/10/15
Source: “What I Want to Say to Fat People: Response to Nicole Arbour,”, 09/05/15
Image by Lwp Kommunikáció


Heroin, Liquor, Food–Addictors Compared

Social Media AddictionAddiction to overeating is real, and one of the most interesting things about it is how recognizable the symptoms are to anyone who has ever been addicted to (what are seen as) the harder substances, like alcohol and narcotics. Actor and comedian Russell Brand got off those things in 2003, and marked his 10-year sober anniversary by publishing an addiction memoir in The Guardian.

About heroin, he tells us that it erases pain, and also that the temptation to erase pain is not easily forgotten or ignored. He tells us that sobriety comes with a price, which is constant vigilance. Fair enough, but on the other hand, the life of an addict also requires constant awareness and attention. Where is the next hit coming from? How are you going to pay for it? Is there another way—like stealing it? How do you get to the stuff, or get the stuff to you? How do you keep other people from finding out?

Anyone who doubts that all addictions are basically the same is invited to search Childhood Obesity News for the term “food addict,” and marvel over the similarities revealed in the stories that real, generous, and courageous people have shared with the world.

Granted, Brand’s struggle is not an exact analogy. For most people who are not rock stars, heroin is pretty easy to stay away from. Generally, a person has to go to some trouble to have heroin delivered, or to go where the heroin is, whereas food is usually just lying around, practically within hand’s reach. Alone among possible addictors, food is ridiculously available.

Someone who sincerely wants to shun heroin can usually succeed by avoiding certain acquaintances, establishments, venues, or neighborhoods. But “refreshments” are found in all the best places—churches, schools, hospitals, business meetings, family reunions, and cruise ships among them. It is difficult to name a place where food is not present. Walk into a bank to transact some business and you may find a little arrangement of a coffeepot, disposable cups, sugar, and a plate of cookies.

Another difference is that when a person makes an offer of heroin, they want something in return—money, your death, or at the very least someone to shoot up with, because misery loves company. Conversely, people who offer food usually do it sincerely, with a loving and giving heart. It’s hard to say no to them. Brand admits that he sometimes envies his former junkie self who, regardless of what other horrors invaded his life, at least had the oblivion offered by hard drugs to fall back on. Of course this makes no sense, as any recovering addict will readily admit. There is absolutely no logic behind wanting to be an abjectly enslaved, barely-human creature whose who finds the whole meaning of life hidden in a substance. Brand writes:

The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help they have no hope.

In that structured help lies the solution, which is, of course, to refrain from drinking or drugging, one day at a time. Brand characterizes this solution as simple but definitely not easy. Here the big difference between food and other substances is apparent. To refrain from overeating, one day at a time, is definitely not simple at all. The reason is obvious: a person can abstain from heroin or alcohol, day after day, for years and decades, until the end, and still live a perfectly full life, but nobody can abstain from food. The stark simplicity of “yes” or “no” is not available. Lines have to be drawn and redrawn every day.

Fortunately, there is a way to survive this conundrum. While a human can’t say NO to food in the same way that she or he can say NO to heroin, a compromise measure can be effectively employed. A person can give a negative answer to certain kinds of food, or to any kind of food at certain times or under defined circumstances. This is exactly what W8Loss2Go is designed for—to help people survive in the real world where total abstention from food is impossible.

No one can or should give up food entirely, of course. But the W8Loss2Go app helps a person to identify and quit problem foods, thus helping to draw the line that, in the case of heroin, alcohol, and other substances, presents itself so definitively. A person can’t say no to all food indiscriminately. But a person can absolutely say no to French fries. It’s possible to take a stand as solid and particular as the recovering alcoholic’s stand against booze. “I don’t eat French fries. Period.”

Extend that ban to include a few other problem foods, and you’ve got yourself a solid foundation to work from. “I don’t eat chips. Period.” No potato chips, no corn chips—not even quinoa chips. A ban is a ban, and the more draconian it is, the easier to stick to. The app helps a person decide what to ban, and then helps to enact that ban and make it stick. Now, let the refusal reach out and include any kind of food, if it’s not the right time of day, i.e., official mealtime. W8Loss2Go can do that, too.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Russell Brand: my life without drugs,”, 03/08/13
Image by Mike Licht

Letter To A Teen, About W8Loss2Go


This is what I’d say to a teen, or even a pretty smart kid, who’s a lot like I was then.

Full disclosure: The Childhood Obesity News blog exists for many reasons. One of them is to show any overweight or obese young person that W8Loss2Go is a good idea, and see if they will give it a try. Which is free, by the way.

Currently, the app is available for the iPhone and will soon be available for free on the App Store. Until it’s on the App Store, the app may downloaded for free.

The agenda is: W8Loss2Go is a good idea. We can’t say it any clearer than that. Here’s something to chew on —  a lot of times, for various kinds of problems, you’ll hear, “It gets better.” You want to say, “Oh right. Just go ahead and tell me, how does it get better? When does this get better thing kick in?”

The answer is, “Right now, if you want it to.” Exactly. The news of the year is, if extra pounds are weighing you down, you don’t have to wait for things to get better. Decide that you’re in it to win it. The treasure can be found, the princess or prince can be rescued, the dragon can be slain. In this quest, the map is W8Loss2Go.

There are ways you can tell if something is worth considering. One of them is, it doesn’t claim to solve all your problems in under 10 seconds. Dr. Pretlow says:

Successful withdrawal from their problem foods may not result in significant user weight loss. Yet, many app users have said that successful withdrawal from their problem foods gave them confidence that they could then withdraw from snacking and excessive amounts at meals.

So it’s no good saying, “I don’t have enough confidence.” Just shut it, because this is how to get confidence. I can’t do 20 sit-ups today. But I can do three, and maybe after a couple of days I will be able to do four. And by next week, chances are I’ll be doing 10. After that, who knows where repetition could take me?

I won’t deny it’s hard to even imagine 20 sit-ups. But maybe imagining it is what a person needs to do. A lot of athletes are into that creative visualization stuff. When you make a little movie in your head, and picture yourself doing the 20 sit-ups, and do it enough times, they say it carves new pathways through your brain, and pretty soon you end up at a different place than before. Maybe even a place where you can do 20 sit-ups in the actual world.

Pathways… there is some kind of Zen saying about crossing a river, stone by slippery stone, only it’s foggy, and every time you land on a new footing you can still only see one more stone ahead of yourself. You just have to trust your gut that the rest of the stones are there.

The point is, “baby steps.” If you live around a baby, you know they don’t make it across the room in a single bound. It might take a few tries. But you can only take one step at a time, so quit beating yourself up about it, if that’s what you’re doing. Then go ahead and roll with it, the idea that all you can do is one step at a time. That’s what staged withdrawal means. Dr. Pretlow says,

The app focuses on staged withdrawal from: 1) problem foods, 2) snacking, and 3) excessive amounts at meals.

That’s right, there is more than one task ahead. But just think about Hercules — he had 12 labors. So far, we have only seen three in this bunch. But the big secret is, by the time you get there, you’ll be ready for the next thing, whatever it may be.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “W8Loss2Go App Approach”
Image by W8Loss2Go


The Role of the Microbiome in Addiction

"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

Dr. Pretlow’s Huffington Post Guest Appearance


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

Developments on the Flaky Fringe

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

Formerly Fat—Nurse Bowick of Rochester

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

The Language of Obesity

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

Curbing Childhood Obesity with Legislation and Taxation

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


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