Is All Microbiome Research Corporate-Sponsored?

Phylogeny FiguresLast week, discussing a study performed at Washington University School of Medicine, Childhood Obesity News wondered whether a study with four sponsors, two of whom were Mondelez and Kraft, may not be totally reliable. To entertain suspicions about such research might be appropriate, because it would be greatly to the food industry’s advantage to show that they have no culpability in the childhood obesity epidemic. But that ship has already sailed—there is too much evidence, everywhere, to ever let the junk food corporations off the hook.

Another way in which that study might be problematic was pointed out by the researchers behind another study, this one undertaken at Louisiana State University. Its authors questioned the concept of using sterile mice (not reproductively sterile, but raised to have no native germs) as subjects, noting:

There are several characteristics of germ-free mice…that undermine their utility and physiologic relevance. For example, germ-free mice are well known to be smaller than conventional mice, with decreased cardiac output and notably underdeveloped immune systems.

While the germ-free state of lab animals is a separate question, the Louisiana work was undertaken based on a background statement that included these words:

The prevalence of mental illness, particularly depression and dementia, is increased by obesity.

Here, we test the hypothesis that obesity-associated changes in gut microbiota are intrinsically able to impair neurocognitive behavior in mice.

These researchers confirmed that the health of the central nervous system depends on a sturdy gut microbiome. When their demographics are imbalanced, the state of dysbiosis affects neural processes, immune activation, and inflammation—all of which play a role in disorders that span the territory between psychiatric and neurological.

When gut microbes are nourished by a high fat diet, they just might get rowdy and promote the increase of intestinal permeability, a.k.a. leaky gut syndrome, along with inflammation in every part of the body. The authors concluded that their data reinforced the link between gut dysbiois and neurologic malfunction, and suggested that dietary modification or drugs could improve the situation. Still, their acknowledgment and disclosure paragraph does not include any pharmaceutical company. It credits the National Institutes of Health, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, and Louisiana State University, with no indication of corporate support.

Stanford University research by microbiologist David Relman examined the role of the gut microbiome in balancing the hormones, such as leptin, that influence our feeding behavior. That work was sponsored by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Research in Canada

Another study with no apparent links to the food industry comes from the Department of Kinesiology at Laval University in Québec. Published by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, it suggested that since the gut microbiome is associated with weight control and energy homeostasis, it must obviously play a role in obesity (or its absence).

These researchers were interested in the effectiveness of prebiotics and probiotics, both of which can change the populations of intestinal fauna. Probiotic medicines contain actual desirable bacteria, while prebiotics contain food that friendly bugs like to eat. The microbes, in turn, can affect appetite, eating habits, fat storage, and even metabolic functions, “through gastrointestinal pathways and modulation of the gut bacterial community.” The authors add:

The physiologic functions attributed to gut microbiota have extended to extraintestinal tissues, such as the liver, brain, and adipose tissue, constructing novel connections with obesity and related disorders including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease…Dysbiosis in the gut microbiota may lead to obesity via different mechanisms.

Although pre- and probiotics have been tested on adults in the effort to both prevent and treat obesity, this team expressed regret that relatively little work has been done with children, for whom a new dietary solution would be of enormous help. The report is admirably thorough, with 81 referential footnotes. The pertinent disclosure clause says, “There are no conflicts of interest to declare.”

Another Canadian study, this one originating at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, also was interested in prebiotic fiber, because the intestinal inhabitants happily accept it and reward us by functioning brilliantly. That research was funded by a grant from the BMO Financial group, which has a lot to do with wealth management and investment banking, but is not a manufacturer of food, junky or otherwise. Dr. Raylene Reimer told the press:

With this award, our team will now be able to determine if (prebiotic fiber) can be applied to children and incorporated into the guidelines of pediatric obesity management.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “_Obese-type Gut Microbiota Induce Neurobehavioral Changes in the Absence of Obesity,” biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com, 04/01/15
Source: “Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria in Dangerous Ways,” ScientificAmerican.com, 03/17/15
Source: “Childhood Obesity: A Role for Gut Microbiota?,” MDPI.com, 2015
Source: “Why prebiotics could be key to fighting obesity,” GlobalNews.ca, 10/15/13
Image by eLife.01202.F8.large

 

Another Roundup – Globesity in Europe and Scandinavia

Recollection of the Last Winter-Old Czech FarmPeople in cold climates today are at a disadvantage because there is not as much opportunity to be active outdoors. In the old days, they didn’t have a choice. Going from place to place often involved walking, even with shoeshoes. Try it some time—it’s not easy and it burns a lot of calories.

Despite frigid temperatures, they had to get outside and provide food for the animals that pulled sleighs and carriages and other transportation devices. Animals did the vital farm work that provided food year-round, and they had to be taken care of through the winter months when there was not much to do but survive in the barn, waiting for the next growing season and their chance to be useful out in the fields.

Even in the cold, people had to get out and cut down trees and then chop those trees into fireplace-size logs and stove-size pieces. They did not have the luxury of deciding to stay indoors and play video games. Life depended on frequent and vigorous physical activity. Then, the Industrial Revolution changed the entire world in ways that made it unrecognizable to previous generations. Once the human organism had somewhat adjusted to these new conditions, the Junk Food Cataclysm came along and drowned the world in high fructose corn syrup and hyperpalatable pseudo-foods.

Obesity in Cold Countries

In 2011, Hungary bit the bullet and began taxing sugar, fat, and caffeine as a way for the government to save up some money for treatment of the damage caused to its citizens by those substances. Several other European countries sat up and took notice.

We originally mentioned Hungary’s fat tax some time ago and wrote about it, along with remarks on the similar struggle in Denmark and a few other countries. The brave and ambitious efforts exerted by Denmark also came up again more recently because of their influence over the authorities of Finland and Canada, who are working to stem childhood obesity in their own northern countries.

We also peeked in on what has been transpiring in such far-flung places as Uzbekistan and New Zealand, and looked at what the World Health Organization has been saying and doing with regard to the tide of obesity that has rolled over the earth. Bucking the worldwide trend, Norway and the Netherlands report relatively low rates of child obesity, and both countries are taking measures to keep it that way.

France is a real outlier, with laid-back Mediterranean habits, a diet that seems like it should be problematic, and a love for fancy sweets. Yet only 9.5 percent of the French are obese. Naturally, researchers are curious about this anomaly. Could their cultural habit of regular communal lunches be making a difference? Is social conviviality a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a sane relationship with food?

Childhood Obesity News keeps track of what is happening in the United States, and also of global obesity. Critics would point out that it’s all pretty much the same, because American-spawned corporations have exported obesity to every corner of the earth. The charge is difficult to rebut. All we can hope is that the ability to reverse the trend will also originate in the U.S., and that it will also spread around the world just as efficiently.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Marketa

The Problematic Gut Microbiome Study

Anatomical drawing of abdomen, circa 1909

Yesterday Childhood Obesity News discussed a study indicating that the correlation between obesity and an unbalanced gut microbiome could be more than coincidental, and might indeed be a cause-and-effect relationship. Researchers working with laboratory mice found that certain kinds of fecal microbiota, when introduced into the systems of normal-weight mice, could cause them to become obese.

The study in question was done at Washington University School of Medicine (in St. Louis) where co-author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, is director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology. Another co-author was graduate student Vanessa Ridaura, whose team demonstrated that physical and metabolic traits can be transmitted from one individual to another when communities of gut microbiota are artificially introduced into their systems.

They were working on the suspicion, formed from the results of earlier animal experiments, that the microscopic inhabitants of the intestinal tract could somehow influence fatness. Their study was titled “Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice” and when its findings first emerged, a report appeared at ScienceDaily.com, which published this description:

Germ-free mice that received gut bacteria from obese humans put on more weight and accumulated more fat than mice that were given bacteria from the guts of lean humans…this new study shows directly that microbial communities from the gut can transmit lean or obese traits…This transplantation of gut microbes from humans to mice led to metabolic changes in the rodents that are associated with obesity in humans.

The team began with human twins, but only certain kinds—pairs in which one twin was lean and one obese. From them, donor microbes were obtained. The recipients were mice that had been raised under sterile conditions, and so were starting out with no inner microbes of their own. Given identical food, the mice should have all weighed the same, but they didn’t. Something else was going on, and whatever it was, the difference was attributed to the different quality microbes that the subjects had received.

A Closer Look at Microbiomes

The lean animals were labeled Ln mice and the obese ones were called Ob mice. The next stage of the experiment depended on the rodents’ habit of consuming feces, a trait which is disgusting to humans but which facilitates the exchange of microbes between mice that are housed together. After ten days, it was apparent that Ob mice were influenced, in that they “adopted the “leaner” features—including the metabolic features—of their Ln cagemates.” Strangely, the exchange did not seem to have much effect the other way. The Ln mice did not seem to be troubled by ingesting microbes from their Ob cagemates. The interior colonies of Ln microbiota were more stable, and apparently not vulnerable to the influence of Ob-associated microbes.

There is more to say about this study and other, similar ones that followed in its wake, but before pursuing the subject further, we want to note that funding credit is due to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health—all quite appropriate. Thanks to disclosure laws, the public is also aware of the potentially disturbing fact that the other sponsors were Kraft Foods and Mondelez International.

As we have seen, whenever a corporation delves into its pocket to subsidize academic research, there is reason for skepticism. Mondelez is a globe-encompassing concern whose slogan is, “World’s favorite snack brands—creating delicious moments of joy.” Kraft is the same old wine in a different bottle, especially since the recent merger with Heinz.

In their own estimation and according to their PR departments, corporate empires are all about community partnerships and making the world a better place. These are not bad goals, but when a corporate behemoth extends a helping hand to cash-strapped academia, it can’t hurt to keep an eye on the situation.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Human gut microbes alter mouse metabolism, depending on diet
ScienceDaily.com, 09/05/13
Image by Double-M

 

The Gut Microbiome as Obesity Villain

Intestines“The Gut Microbiome and Childhood Obesity: Connecting the Dots” was published in the June 2015 issue of the journal Childhood Obesity. This interview with Noel Theodore Mueller, who is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center, strongly incriminates gut bacteria as a cause of childhood obesity.

The first thing to know is that a human intestinal system typically plays host to “tens of trillions” of creatures, mostly bacteria. The great majority of them are commensal, meaning we don’t bother them and they don’t bother us. In fact, they provide us with services. But a gutful of imbalanced microbiota can throw a monkey wrench into the works. That condition of imbalance is known as dysbiosis.

Many scientists are quite satisfied with the evidence that the microbiome, the world of organisms that live inside us, has a very great influence on autoimmune conditions, as well as infectious diseases and metabolic disorders. Mueller goes so far as to say:

In fact, it is within the realm of possibility that microbiota play a role in most human pathologies. The upside for those interested in improving public health is that, unlike our genetic code, the human microbiome can be modified and cultivated by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Based on various studies, he leans toward the opinion that if intervention is to be carried out to influence the gut microbiota, the best time is during the first three years of life. It seems that then the door begins to close—but it never closes all the way, and researchers in this field find that augmentation of the intestinal fauna can be therapeutically effective later in life. The best-case scenario will be to discover how to fix the problem in newborn babies, or possibly even when they are still in their gestational stage.

Mystery still surrounds the exact process through which a baby acquires its first colonies of bacteria, although obviously the mother has a lot to do with it. But like the proverbial onion, this topic has many layers. Dr. Mueller says:

These earliest exposures to the microbial world are also paramount for educating the newborn immune system, developing their organs, and also potentially programming their metabolic function.

Metabolic function seems to have a lot to do with obesity, and if the gut microbiota strongly influence the metabolic function, the connection can’t be ignored. The strongest evidence comes from Washington University:

Seminal research from Jeff Gordon’s lab out of Washington University in St. Louis has demonstrated that transplanting obese fecal microbiota into germ-free mice causes these mice to become obese compared to germ-free mice inoculated with fecal microbiota from normal weight individuals. Importantly this translational research showed that the observational association between gut microbiota and obesity might indeed be causal.

In some quarters this is regarded as quite an astonishing claim, and our following post will take a closer look at that study.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Gut Microbiome and Childhood Obesity: Connecting the Dots,” Liebertpub.com, June 2015
Image by Memi Beltrame

 

The Tax Conundrum

tax2Childhood Obesity News has been tracing some of the developments in efforts to offset the public cost of the consequences of obesity by levying tax on soda pop, junk food and fast food. Relevant to this, a recent New York Times article by Dariush Mozaffarian and David S. Ludwig quoted Dr. Kelly Brownell, Dean of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Brownell wrote:

I expect history will look back with dismay on the celebration of baby steps industry takes (such as public-private partnerships with health organizations, ‘healthy eating’ campaigns, and corporate social responsibility initiatives) while it fights viciously against meaningful change (such as limits on marketing, taxes on products such as sugared beverages and regulation of nutritional labeling).

Of course it is difficult to force any aspect of the food industry to change its ways or curb its enthusiasm for ever-increasing profits. America was built on the ideal of freedom, and businesses never hesitate to claim their share of it.

One of the main reasons behind the drive to add a “sin tax” to the price of any product that is harmful to people is the collection of revenues that, in theory anyway, are used to alleviate the cost of medical care to people who develop diseases because of the product. But any citizen who follows up on the result of such movements is likely to feel discouraged and betrayed.

Broken Promises

At one point, the tobacco industry was made to pay a $246 billion dollar settlement to be shared among state governments and doled out over a 25-year period. A couple of years ago, National Public Radio looked into how that money is spent, and what it found was not good. Rather than use it for preventative education, cancer research, or the actual care of patients, states have funneled the settlement funds into whatever seemed needful at the moment—literacy programs, road work, and even financial assistance for tobacco farmers.

Attorney Mike Moore, who was instrumental in winning the case against the tobacco companies, told NPR that “most of the settlement money came with no strings attached, and that has made it impossible to hold states accountable.” In Mississippi, for instance, Moore described the situation like this:

What happened as the years went by, legislators come and go, and governors come and go…so we got a new governor and he had a new opinion about the tobacco trust fund. So a trust fund that should have $2.5 billion in it now doesn’t have much at all…

With this kind of precedent, it is no wonder that voters are leery of tax proposals. A second justification for adding a “sin tax” to the cost of products is to steer shoppers away from buying them. A report from ScienceDaily.com examined the psychological effects of this idea. A study conducted by Cornell University and RTI International found that one-third of consumers were not aware of the tax status of products they bought. While it is true that many or most grocery chains include tax information on the receipts, consumers do not routinely study those receipts or make use of the information they gain from giving the matter such attention.

The researchers suggest that instituting the tax at an earlier stage, by imposing it on manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors, might be effective. That would make the full, true price of the item appear on the store shelf signage, rather than in the pale obscure numbers on the long strip of paper stuffed into the bag at the end of the transaction. But for now, their summary stated:

Increasing sales taxes on sugary foods to promote healthier food choices among grocery store shoppers is unlikely to be effective because many consumers are unaware of the tax differences on food items sold in grocery stores.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why Is the Federal Government Afraid of Fat?,” NYTimes.com, 07/09/15
Source: “15 Years Later, Where Did All The Cigarette Money Go?,” NPR.org, 10/13/13
Source: “States aiming to promote healthy eating through sales taxes often miss the target,” sciencedaily.com, 12/18/12
Image by 401(K) 2012

 

More Obesity Villains Identified in Media

Peppa PigThe latest candidates for childhood obesity villains in the media are chubby cartoon characters such as Homer Simpson and Peppa Pig. Homer Simpson is perhaps over-familiar, but childless people might not be cognizant of the 5-year-old little British girl pig, star of a cartoon show whose humor is designed to impress toddlers and preschoolers. The drawing, according to one critic, appears to have been done by a Ford Pinto, which may be the first time the name of that hazardous car has been used in an artistic context.

Some parents hate the show and have expressed a wish for the cast to be eaten by a pack of wolves, while others would like to see the characters turned into bacon and fed to the deserving poor. An online parents’ guide gives Peppa Pig a 5-star rating, calling the animated series mild, very cute, simple, adorable, and pleasant, with “strong social lessons about kindness, loyalty, and being thoughtful.”

The site offers an option to warn fellow parents on drink, smoking, and drugs, of which there are apparently none in this show, but does not specifically offer a category for food-related objections. There is plenty of obesity-related material, as we learn from the synopses that Christian O’Connell has helpfully provided for some of the hundreds of Peppa Pig episodes. Here are excerpts:

Daddy tries ballet dancing and gets crushed after trying to throw Mummy Pig in the air and catch her, something the two of them did in their youth. Daddy says nothing—NOTHING—about how much weight Mummy Pig has piled on since their youth, taking all the blame for the accident on himself…

The password to get into Peppa’s treehouse is “Daddy’s Big Tummy.” Daddy is upset by these cruel words but is forced to say them in order to be allowed into the treehouse. He doesn’t fit in the treehouse because he’s too big and so is forced to take the roof off to get in…

They all go for a plate of Granny’s biscuits but Granny won’t let anyone eat the biscuits unless they say “Daddy’s Big Tummy….”

Two years ago, Elissa Griesser noted the anti-Peppa grumblings in the United Kingdom, where the show has been available longer. Some parents take issue with Peppa calling her dad a fat pig. There is the disrespect factor, and an underlying message that it is acceptable to laugh about someone’s size. Other parents and critics have objected that the porcine children are fussy about food, and Peppa’s parents let her snack before dinner. Human parents don’t care for the precedent set by little piggy brother George, who yells “chocolate cake” as his breakfast request. Reportedly, George also cries when faced with the prospect of eating vegetables

An online search for Peppa Pig reveals all the usual merch associated with a popular animated hero—toys, games, videos, underpants, books, pencil cases, bath mitts, bedding, hair clips, posters, musical instruments, pool flotation devices, backpacks, lunch cooler bags, drink bottles, and the exclusive Peppa Pig Tropical Snack Pot, “perfect for storing your favorite nibbles.”

At the University of Colorado, Professor Margaret Campbell and a team studied 300 children from three different age groups (ages 8, 12, and 13). They were interested in how kids perceive cartoon characters and what kinds of stereotypes come into play. Prof. Campbell told the press:

We weren’t sure whether kids would be aware of bodyweight norms. But surprisingly, they apply typically human standards to cartoon creatures—creatures for which there isn’t a real baseline.

This study confirmed that after watching fat cartoon characters, children will favor high-calorie, low-nutrition “indulgent” food, and eat more of it—twice as much, in fact, as when the cartoons feature normal-weight characters. The belief that cartoon characters influence the minds of children is not new. A few years back, criticism moved Kellogg to portray its Tony the Tiger mascot as a slimmer creature.

Extra Bonus Announcement!

Dr. Pretlow was interviewed by Kevin Kniestedt for National Public Radio and Seattle’s station KPLU. Topics include the origin story of the Weigh2Rock http://www.weigh2rock.com/ website, the role of comfort eating in the childhood obesity epidemic, and what needs to be done. This might be the most informative 6 minutes and 44 seconds of your day!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “_Peppa Pig.” CommonSenseMedia.org, undated
Source: “Why Peppa Pig is evil,” BigIssue.com, 08/18/14
Source: “Not everyone loves Peppa Pig: when TV shows make kids naughty,” SMH.com, 08/23/13
Source: “How Peppa Pig could be making your children fat,” Telegraph.co.uk, 07/14/15
Image by Birthday cake

Could Solving Obesity Cause Disaster?

Coke Jeepney in Manila

Childhood Obesity News has presented quite a few posts about obesity around the world. What other health issue is so all-encompassing? It brings all of humanity together in a way that rarely happens. News of efforts to reverse childhood obesity comes from Dubai, India, and Vietnam, among others. The Arabic Gulf states are just like America, with sedentary children who eat too much fast food.

South Africa learned that well over half of its inhabitants were overweight or obese, with childhood obesity growing at a frightening rate. The research was done by a pharmaceutical company, whose spokesperson made a mystifying statement to the effect that obesity was not more prevalent among the lower economic class. If so, that would make South Africa different from most other places.

There are some championships that nobody wants to win. In 2013, Mexico surpassed the United States as the world’s fattest nation. All the signs pointed to the Coca-Cola Company as the single most responsible party. (Doesn’t “company” sound so much more down-home and relatable than “corporation?”)

What If We Were All Normal Weight?

One of the great ironies of our age is that solving one problem often causes another. Here is a thought experiment. What if all the overweight and obese earthlings were to become normal weight? That would be great, right? As it turns out, it might have unintended consequences. The reason can be found in the definition of “carbon footprint:”

The total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Your carbon footprint is the sum of all emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which were induced by your activities in a given time frame.

Carbon dioxide is an element of indoor air pollution, and a major player in the physical condition of the globe. Climate change activists offer suggestions for how an individual can shrink her or his carbon footprint. Yes, but how does this connect with childhood obesity, or adult obesity either, for that matter?

Ruben Meerman and Andrew Brown have established that fat is excreted from the body as water and carbon dioxide. It goes out of people and into the toilet or the air. If all the overweight and obese people on the planet were to lose their extra weight instantaneously, the resulting CO2 released into the atmosphere could have a devastating effect on global warming. Of course, weight loss doesn’t happen instantaneously, and the amount of CO2 released would be negligible compared to that released daily by vehicles and power plants.

Nevertheless, it’s worth thinking about.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What is a carbon footprint-definition – definition,” timeforchange.org, undated
Image by Chloe

 

 

Can Pad Tag Solve Childhood Obesity?

karate kick at sunriseWorld Karate Champion Johnny Linebarger is based in Tucson, where he teaches martial arts. He wants to fight childhood obesity by sharing with the world something the KoSho Karate school franchise has known about for 20 years—Pad Tag, which he calls “a fun and exciting game that gets people of all ages up and moving, naturally and easily, running, hopping, jumping, dodging, kicking and laughing their butts off.”

What’s not to like about that? Furthermore, by this time next year he wants to see a million people playing this hybrid of tag, dodgeball, and soccer, and created a Kickstarter campaign to make it happen. (It just ended, as this was written, and the funding effort was not successful.)

Previously, Reddit contributor “Narayume” had explained why it might be a terrible idea for kids who already would prefer a broken leg if it would get them out of PE class. Running, hopping, jumping, dodging, and kicking are all at the bottom of their Favorite Pastimes list, and while some people on the gym floor might be laughing their butts off, it won’t be the fat kids. Narayume says:

The last thing most of these kids want is competition and a super fit adult lording over them…

Most of these kids likely are petrified of sports, because they are terrible at it and are letting their team down, while also being mocked and in danger of physical pain and injury. Without the endorphin rush or a competitive streak sports can be seriously un-fun.

Which is why the comment suggests that Linebarger may be unqualified to build such a game—because he “clearly enjoys exercise and gets all the right happy hormones from it.” In other words, he is perceived as being nowhere close to the same wavelength or mindset as the kids who hate sports. Convinced that although obese kids might be coerced to play Pad Tag at school, they would reject the notion of playing it elsewhere, Narayume writes:

A solution to the obesity epidemic is desperately needed, but it won’t happen while sports lovers assume that everyone is just like them and just need to really try sports to get into it…

Instead someone needs to help these kids find an exercise or form of movement they enjoy—no matter if it is Kinect Zumba or LARP or just walking or dancing or…anything else really.

In that same discussion thread, another respondent wrote about his own super-conscientious lifestyle in a way that was kind of humorous but also braggy. This inspired Narayume to tailor separate replies for the general audience and to the self-described super-fit person:

Assuming one size fits all is dumb and this guy assuming that overweight kids just need more PE to finally get fit is stupid and demonstrates a severe and embarrassing lack of knowledge and understanding of the problem and the kids involved.

Your way of life is lovely for you, I am sure, but it is not going to get someone fat to change their ways, because to them it sounds like hell.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “World Karate Champion Wants 1 Million People Fighting Childhood Obesity Through Play,” ayudos.com, 06/30/15
Source: “World Karate Champion Wants 1 Million People Fighting Childhood Obesity with Outdoor Game Padtag (ayudos.com),” reddit.com, 2015
Image by bluesbby

One Woman’s Story – Chrisetta Mosley

Chrisetta MosleyOccasionally, to see what can be learned, Childhood Obesity News looks into the lives and thoughts of formerly obese people, not all of them national or international celebrities. Chrisetta Mosley has achieved renown in her neck of the woods, an area that encompasses both Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR, where she has been the subject of many news articles.

No, she is not reed-thin. Her struggle against obesity is ongoing—but Mosley’s story is inspiring nonetheless, because it is a story of a life dedicated to sharing knowledge and hope with others. As a blogger, teacher, and cookbook publisher, Mosley is all about taking personal responsibility to break the cycle:

I don’t want to see [childhood obesity] continuing. I’ve got to talk the talk and walk the walk.

In 2011, Mosley told her story (up to that point) to journalist Scott Hewitt. She came from a family of 8 kids where money was as scarce as nutritional consciousness, and Kool Aid was the house beverage. Culturally, fat babies were seen as cute, and hefty kids were regarded as lucky to be so well-fed. During the college years, her life was shame-driven. The reporter relates this detail:

Her ultimate (but secret) humiliation: She used to check what rooms her college classes were scheduled for, and if they included attached desk-chair units, she’d quietly appeal to the administration to move the class to a different room—with furniture that fit her.

Characterizing herself as “a product, and now a survivor, of childhood obesity,” Mosley tells about the low point, when she weighed 388 pounds and could barely walk and or even breathe:

The whole world was an obstacle course…I was a miserable, fat, gross person.

This was hitting absolute bottom. But, perhaps swayed by the lure of a quick fix, and certainly not thinking straight, she opted for gastric bypass surgery. Unfortunately, the medical professionals did not emphasize the need for a change in lifestyle from the ground up.

It is tempting to “blame the victim” by wondering why the patient didn’t get out there and research the subject on her own. But ultimately, that part of Mosley’s medical history serves the useful purpose of a cautionary tale, warning other surgical candidates to insist on a good education about how to proceed. Complicating the situation was the fact that, although part of Mosley’s anatomy had been removed, the tendency toward emotional overeating remained intact. There was another factor. She wanted to set a good example of normal weight for her teenage daughter, Jasmyn. The desire to reach for health was still strong,

Sharing the Struggle Against Obesity

Mosley shared the whole process in her blog, “Farewell, Fatso,” (the source of the photos on this page) complete with healthful recipes, helpful workouts, and notes on personal reprogramming. Writing posts for the public helped keep her honest with herself. There have been setbacks. The fall of 2009, when job, car, and boyfriend all unexpectedly exited from her life, was particularly awful. She responded by signing up at a local gym for classes in weight-lifting, yoga, Zumba, and whatever else was offered.

In 2011 Mosley was hit by a car and had to live for months in a wheelchair—not the best place to either work off calories or plan a sane diet. But she banished fast food and sugar-sweetened beverages, and concentrated on a sensible home-cooking regime allowing a very infrequent edible treat. Six years after starting an obesity-beating life, only 38 years old, not perfect but still in there pitching, she had tamed the bulk down to 225 pounds.

Chrisetta Mosley has a currently active Facebook page, but three years after the interview with journalist Hewitt, she put her blog on hiatus, writing:

As I was talking with a respected professional, this was her advice: “Time to stop visiting the past… Only focus on today and moving forward.” She’s absolutely right. Time to stop living in the past. This is who I am today. No more looking back…I’ve put on some of the 170 pounds I had lost. I’m upset with myself. Disappointed…So where I am today is what I must embrace…It’s time to use the past to make tomorrow better.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Woman packs on happiness as she sheds pounds
Columbian.com, 07/13/11
Source: “In between, the past
Blogspot.com, 11/16/14
Image by Farewell, Fatso!

 

Fatlogic’s Power to Cloud Minds

pregnant flea market attenderThe ability to think rationally and the ability to rationalize are quite different. Rational thinking starts with observing the world, before drawing conclusions about it. Conversely, rationalization starts with conclusions that a person has already come to, and then takes bits and pieces of reality and bends them to serve its unhealthy purpose. Dr. Pretlow says:

In our studies, nearly all the obese youth refused to look at why they eat such large amounts…They threw up all kinds of justifications (deflections) against reducing amounts, e.g. they NEED the amounts they eat or they won’t be able to play football, study, sleep, etc. One parent vehemently claimed that her 250-pound 13-year-old needed 2,800 calories per day for his weight.

One reason for the existence of fatlogic is apparent right there. It’s hereditary. Parents conceive beliefs and pass them on to their kids. An early education in fatlogic is especially insidious because we are pretty much raised to respect and perpetuate these received teachings. Failure to listen to our elders equals disrespect. Also, children are born with an inherent desire to admire, believe, depend on, and imitate their parents. Knowing this, it behooves parents to bequeath only true and health-promoting beliefs.

Children are not the only creatures who can be influenced. To varying extents, adults are also influenced by the people around them. Starting a family is a delicate transition point in life. Looking forward to the birth of a first child, many adults are easily swayed. Often, prospective parents are anxious and scared and afraid of doing something wrong.

A first-time mother, especially, is emotionally vulnerable because of hormonal adjustments within her body and brain. As the baby develops, the mother will absorb solid medical information, terrifying war stories, folk wisdom, and old wives’ tales. A Reddit correspondent called “rpsoon” reflects on the worrisome stories she heard about, and from, women who gained weight while pregnant and never could lose it. Her doctor advised adding no more than 20 extra pounds. But a friend insisted:

You need to eat more. You’re eating for two now…Now you can eat everything you want and get as fat as you want. And no one can judge you because you’re pregnant.

Pregnant women get plenty of unsolicited advice. But really, anyone can fall prey to unrecognized fatlogic. A man might be told that his wealth of testosterone will make it easier for him to lose weight, if he ever needs to, so might as well go ahead and eat hearty.

Another Reddit forum member, “BarracudaCat,” has been successful in working toward a healthier weight. He mentions how the defenders of obesity will claim that poverty prevents them from buying vegetables, and anyway, “healthy” is a code word for “skinny,” and so on. He also gives two stunning examples of how fatlogic has the power to cloud minds:

You mention a personal experience losing weight by cutting portion sizes? They blast back “Some of us are too poor for a fancy gym membership and personal trainer!”

Everything is misdirection, strawman arguments, ad hominen attacks, false dichotomies…One person’s weight loss “doesn’t mean it’s possible for everyone!” and yet “MY bloodwork is fine, that means ALL fat people are healthy!”

In the first instance, the disagreeable fatlogician was not even listening, and replied to something entirely different from what the speaker had said. The second case is a classic example of cognitive dissonance—the ability to believe two mutually contradictory things at the same time.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “22 Weeks In: Bring On The Pregnancy Fatlogic (self.fatlogic),” reddit.com, 2014
Source: “Dismantling fat logic makes me an “ignorant prick”, Reddit.com, November 2014
Image: Bradley Gordon

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