The Ultimate Parents’ Checklist

family portrait

Let kids graze and snack as much as they want, at any random time of day or night. It’s every man, woman and child for himself or herself.

Keep the dining room table covered with clutter, to discourage any chance that the family will ever sit down together and share a meal.

If there are any unresolved issues or bones of contention between family members, dinner is a great time to air them. In case you run out of ideas, keep a “Problem Jar” nearby to draw from.

Serve only the richest, most calorically ambitious foods at home. The kids can always get plenty of salad at school!

Hover over kids like a vulture, monitoring and commenting on every bite.

Make every holiday an unforgettable feast, with only the richest, most calorie-dense dishes. If the child does not participate enthusiastically, accuse him/her of not really loving the family, the faith, the culture, or the country of origin.

Keep junk food within plain sight on every horizontal surface, so family members will be constantly reminded of its availability.

Purchase food by the criterion of package flashiness — the more reflective foil, the more fluorescent colors, and the more cartoon characters, the better.

When children visit your home, whether they are kinfolk or unrelated, be sure to bring out the most nutrition-deficient snacks — especially the items their parents have specifically asked you not to give them.

Stick with prepackaged, microwaveable meals to uphold the family’s image of status. Scratch cooking is for peasants!

Make sure your child spends plenty of time in front of an electronic screen, either watching shows with plenty of junk-food commercials, or playing games.

Let kids stay up as late as they want to. They’re only young once!

Whether the kids are your own, or you are just taking care of them, this tip yields amazing results. Carry around a bag of treats and, every time you need the child to do something, give a sugar-laden treat as a reward.

Keep on hand a stockpile of more impressive treats to be used for bribes. Given a sufficient amount of sugar, a child can be convinced to do almost anything!

Set an example of adult dignity and gravitas by spending all your spare time on the couch.

If a letter arrives from the nurse’s office at your child’s school, warning that the BMI is a bit out of whack — sue the interfering bureaucrats!

If your child’s doctor voices concern, assure her that both sides of the family tree are big-boned. If she persists, find another doctor.

If your child shows signs of depression, loneliness, or any other negative emotion, organize a trip to the nearest fast-food outlet and have a real splurge. Ask about dessert specials!

Happy April Fools Day!

Your responses and feedback are welcome.
Photo credits: PBoGS (top), shumpei_sano_exp7 (bottom) via BY-SA

Emotional Eating — Some Angles

Children often start overeating just because “the food is there.” They discover some things taste better than others, and if their parents make good-tasting food available, kids will eat it.

No surprise there, and no blame, either. Parents are supposed to feed their children. The problem arises from the food industry’s insistence on loading everything with sugar and other ingredients that facilitate obesity.

No matter how delicious a serving of carrots may be, a bowl of over-sweetened cereal tastes better, and so does a package of chips or a plate of cookies. If parents keep a kitchen full of treats that are available 24/7, it’s not difficult to guess what foods children will gravitate toward.

They soon learn about the major side effect of hedonic foods. As Dr. Pretlow says:

Once depression, stress, or boredom are eased by the pleasure of the food, this “comfort eating” behavior will be repeated, typically mindlessly. As the child continues to eat to ease emotional distress, changes take place in the brain to reinforce the behavior and keep it going.

With the brain involved, eating for emotional comfort becomes an addictive process. Just like drug addicts, food addicts develop tolerance. When the expected happiness does not occur, disappointment with the food joins all the other emotional malaise. Where a small packet of chips used to do the job, now the attainment of comfort involves a party-size bag. Each increment of food is found to be less satisfying, so larger amounts are ingested in hopes of recapturing the necessary level of soothing. This is a recipe for disaster.

The relationship between comfort eating and obesity is not hot news. More than half a century has passed since LIFE magazine published an article titled “The Plague of Overweight,” whose first line read:

The most serious health problem in the U.S. today is obesity.

That was in 1954! Much of the article centered around a particular individual, Dorothy Bradley, who graduated from high school weighing more that 200 pounds. It said about her:

She had overeaten from the time she began to mature, possibly because of unconscious emotional turmoil.

Today, six decades later, the connection is no big revelation to us, yet the health professionals are still trying to figure out how to break that connection. Anger and fear are reliable triggers, as are sadness, loneliness, and boredom. When people are upset, they try to eat their way out of it, with varying degrees of success.

The situation grows even darker, as described by Tricia Greaves Nelson, who attributes emotional hunger not just to the desire to escape pain, but to its opposite — an actual drive for punishment. She explains:

Emotional eaters are extremely sensitive. We feel deeply, so we’re very prone to feeling guilty, and therefore use use food as a form of punishment because we feel bad about a lot of things and we just end up taking it out on ourselves.

This is something people do not talk about. Food as punishment is probably one of the biggest hidden causes of overeating.

Food addiction as self-flagellation — how bizarre does that sound? But remember Elvis Presley? He, like so many other unfortunate humans, was quite literally at war with himself. While ordinary people have clever ways to conceal the self-hating nature of their addictions, the larger-than-life persona of Elvis made the underlying fact glaringly apparent.

As Childhood Obesity News has mentioned before, the world-famous singer stuffed himself not only with far too much high-calorie, low-nutrition food, but with three daily meals of drugs including (but not limited to) Seconal, Demerol, Nembutal, Valium, and Quaalude. The horrifying aspect of this habit is that he himself called each load of drugs an “attack.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity in America: Photos From the Early Days of a National Health Crisis,”, 03/21/13
Source: “The Hidden Causes of Overeating,”, 02/05/15
Image by Thoth God of Knowledge

What Does a Culture of Health Look Like?

Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News spoke of the research efforts that are underway thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). As is fitting for a project that operates on a national scale, the two areas of concentration are effective policy and effective environmental strategies.

Of course those two areas overlap. Schools and grocery stores are both part of a child’s environment, but it might take some determined policy-making to bring about changes in them.

These factors are both very important for babies and young children, who have no choice or agency in their life circumstances. Teenagers are different. Adolescents possess considerably more autonomy than children. Coincidentally, the decision to adopt a healthy lifestyle also requires personal power. In many ways, this is good. It is difficult to prevent anyone from becoming obese unless they are personally on board with the idea.

A mixed blessing

The increase in self-determinism that comes with age has a downside. Neither environmental changes nor policy decisions can have as much effect. Ultimately, the battle to avoid or reverse obesity belongs to each person alone. To make a difference, hearts and minds need to change.

RWJF says that its Healthy Eating Research program aims to “build a vibrant, multidisciplinary field of research and a diverse network of researchers.” This almost sounds like it might be secret code for “Weirdness is welcome; we’ve tried everything else.”

Let’s digress for a moment and mention one of the terrific things about Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, the poll feature. Here’s a guy who goes to the source and actually asks kids what’s up. Take, for instance, Poll #85, which asked kids, “Do you think information on healthy eating helps you to lose weight?”

The young people responded:

Yes, it helps me to know what I should be eating, in order to lose weight: 30 votes (30%)

Yes, it makes my parents and school have healthy food for me to eat: 4 votes (4%)

No, I am OD’d on healthy eating info — I need info on resisting cravings: 66 votes (66%)

Have you learned healthy eating info in school?
YES: 61 votes (61%)
NO: 39 votes (39%)

What could be wrong with spreading healthy eating information via the school curriculum? Nothing, except that it apparently doesn’t make much of a dent in the problem. When RWJF seeks researchers, advocates, decision-makers, and policymakers to throw their support behind, the key word is “effective.”

When 66% of kids feel that they have absorbed a surfeit of healthy eating information, and most of them learned it in school, this does not inspire confidence in whatever it is the schools are teaching. Hopefully, no award-granting foundation will leap at the chance to subsidize, for instance, yet another reboot of the Food Pyramid.

A serious flaw in the emphasis on healthy eating information is that it ignores the real problem. Dr. Pretlow says:

The approach to child/adolescent obesity continues to be the “nice nice nice” healthy eating paradigm, even though kids say they are overdosed on healthy eating information, that it doesn’t help.

Obese kids say that they need help resisting cravings, which suggests an addictive process is behind their overeating/obesity.

A certain variety of folk wisdom holds that “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you don’t eat.” A more succinct, if paradoxical, way to express the same thought is, “You are what you don’t eat.” This is why, rather than healthy eating information, Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go program focuses on the child’s problem foods — the ones that are most likely to be addictive — and on ditching them one at a time.

Sure, eating fruits and vegetables is very important. But even more important is not eating chips, cheese, chocolate, or whatever other addictive foods are holding that young person in the prison of obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “About Us,”, undated
Image by Weigh2Rock

To Build a Culture of Health

The interests of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) encompass many different focus areas, including beverages; child care/preschool; food access; food and beverage marketing; menu labeling; message framing; nutrition and agriculture policy; pricing and economics; and school/after school.

Currently, RWJF is engaged in a project called “Healthy Eating Research: Building Evidence to Prevent Childhood Obesity.” There is special concern about the most at-risk populations, defined as “black, Latino, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, and children who live in lower-income communities (urban, suburban, and/or rural).”

This national program supports research on strategies, both policy-related and environmentally-based, that are likely to promote healthy eating among children and, ideally, to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. These objectives will be achieved by rewarding advocates, decision-makers, and policymakers with two different kinds of grants, for figuring out the answers. The basic information is:

Healthy Eating Research issues competitive calls for proposals (CFPs) and commissions small-scale research studies and analyses on a variety of topics to solicit scientifically rigorous, solution-oriented proposals. We also develop research reviews, issue briefs, and papers that address major policy issues in childhood obesity.

The mission is to build a Culture of Health. Preference will be given to 501(c)(3) organizations, and the deadline for receipt of concept papers is June 1, 2016.

What needs to be accomplished?

To establish a research base is a high priority. In any large-scale effort, it is obviously necessary to keep track of what has been tried and what has worked. In all research, the ability of an experiment to be duplicated is crucial.

On the other hand, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. To discover the optimal balance between the two, a thorough database is a solid foundation on which to build.

One goal is to promote and realize “effective policy and environmental strategies” that will stop the childhood obesity epidemic in its tracks and send it into ignominious retreat. Of course, it is one thing to recommend a course of action, and another to transform it into national law. This is why an additional goal is to “ensure that findings are effectively communicated to inform policies.”

To back up and borrow a phrase from RWJF, what are the factors that influence healthy eating? The policy-related ones are easier to track, through bureaucracies connected with school-lunch program and similar institutionalized solutions.

Environmental factors are harder to detect and trace. There is plenty of room for theorizing about which environmental factors increase childhood obesity and which environmental factors decrease childhood obesity, but hardcore proof is not easily obtained.

Tomorrow, Childhood Obesity News takes a closer look at what might constitute a Culture of Health.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Focus Areas,”, undated
Source: “About Us,”, undated
Source: “New Connections Grants Awarded through the Healthy Eating Research Program,”, 03/09/16
Photo via

When It Comes to Advertising, Teens Are Vulnerable Too

Childhood Obesity News has been considering the particular obesity-related challenges of adolescence and how those obstacles tie in with the seemingly insurmountable problem of inspiring motivation in someone who has none. Teens are, in many ways, at a disadvantage compared to adults. Depending on economic class and employment status, they may have little choice over what they eat. They may be overwhelmed by peer pressure or crushed by public disapprobation.

Apparently, neural biology is not exactly on their side, at least according to a headline that reads, “Obese teens’ brains unusually susceptible to food commercials, study finds.” The gist is that, relative to other demographic groups, overweight teens possess brains that are somehow disproportionately stimulated by the food commercials on television. The pertinent study originated at Dartmouth College and was published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

The experimental subjects were told that their purpose was to judge TV shows, while the researchers actually tracked their reactions to fast-food commercials. When food commercials enter their eyes and ears, their brains are particularly vulnerable in the regions that control “pleasure, taste and — most surprisingly — the mouth.” The report says:

The results show that in all the adolescents, the brain regions involved in attention and focus (occipital lobe, precuneus, superior temporal gyri and right insula) and in processing rewards (nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal cortex) were more strongly active while viewing food commercials than non-food commercials… The brain’s reward circuitry involves the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitter chemicals that give pleasure and may lead to addictive behavior.

For teens who are already overweight, the effect is stronger. In the orbitofrontal cortex and in brain regions associated with taste perception, reactions are more pronounced, which means that kids who already carry extra pounds are more affected by food commercials than their normal-weight peers. The report says:

The most surprising finding was that the food commercials also activated the overweight adolescents’ brain region that controls their mouths. This region is part of the larger sensory system that is important for observational learning.

But why should it be surprising that sights seen by the eyes cause activity in the brain? It is a well-known fact that pornography affects the brain, to the point where the brain thinks an actual partner is present, and tells the body to act accordingly. Some people are so sensitive, when they see a person vomit in a movie, their brain forms the mistaken impression that poison has entered their own system, and causes them to vomit too. Of course the eyes and the brain and the rest of the body are connected — in innumerable ways.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this research is the age group it concentrated on. Many activists have been involved in removing certain kinds of advertising from TV shows that are primarily directed at small children, and expunging cartoon characters from cereal packaging, and so forth. There has been an assumption that small children, who are particularly vulnerable, innocent, and inexperienced in the ways of the world, need to be protected.

But teenagers? The big bad news from this research is that adolescents are vulnerable in ways we previously thought were problematic only for the very young.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obese teens’ brains unusually susceptible to food commercials, study finds,”, 05/21/15
Photo via Visualhunt

The Great Fat Acceptance Roundup

Fat acceptance is the very opposite of what Dr. Pretlow and thousands of other healthcare providers strive to promote, the kind of normal, healthy-weight fitness that is deemed preferable for so many reasons. How can fat acceptance be good? But the precise and literal opposite of acceptance is rejection, and that is out of the question.

An adolescent struggling with extra poundage in addition to 99 other problems can’t be rejected. An obese baby who has no say in what he or she eats, or when, certainly can’t be rejected. Even with adults, who presumably possess agency and could, in theory, be fit if they really wanted to, should not be rejected, because it never leads to anything good.

But if the alternative is to buy into fat acceptance, what is the answer? Childhood Obesity News has approached this question from a number of angles and teased out quite a few nuances.

There are the large, general, basic matters, examined in “The Fit and Fat Debate,” Part 1 and Part 2.

One post catalogues some of the many varieties of fat acceptance and another checklists the pros and cons of the philosophy.

We also look at how fit, or at least non-obese, people react to the obesity of their fellow humans, and why.

There is much to be said about the national characteristics of fat acceptance, and about what such a laissez faire attitude might imply for the future of the entire planet.

There is, and should be, an ongoing dialogue on the place of size acceptance in the pubic consciousness. Is it really a civil rights issue?

What should be done, who should do it, and who should be allowed to say what?

One of the heaviest questions is, how much weight should be given to the opinions and recommendations of celebrities?

When people who are not medical professionals have a voice, how much credence should anyone place in their contributions?

There is more to be said on this vital topic, but we leave it here for now. Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Jason Eppink

Are Teens Worse Off Than Ever Before?

Some call it a vicious circle or cycle, some call it spiraling, and there are other equally descriptive terms as well. What happens is, condition A makes condition B worse, and then condition B makes condition A worse, and off we go into the wild blue yonder of an out-of-control situation.

The relationship between obesity and self-esteem is the perfect setup for one of these cycling situations. Evidence is not hard to find. An uncredited article from said:

Researchers found that obese children between the ages of 9 and 12 years of age felt a low self-worth compared to those of average weight… Obese tweens and teens have been found to show more negative peer reactions compared to those of normal size.

Psychological malaise can manifest in two ways. Problems can be internalized, resulting in anxiety and self-harming behaviors like eating disorders. Equally as alarming are the outward manifestations:

Obese and overweight children and teens also have been found to have more “externalizing” problems, which are those directed outward in the form of back talk, defiance, and aggression.

That was only one random piece of journalism pulled from hundreds of possible examples. These difficulties cause emotional stress, and emotional stress causes overeating, and overeating causes obesity, and obesity causes more emotional stress, ad infinitum.

Part of the basic problem here is that obesity doesn’t even have to be in the picture for things in the life of a teenager to “go south.” NBC News produced an extensive report on the obstacles facing all adolescents, particularly obstacles that were not as prevalent in the past.

Their headline-worthy finding was that teens these days are even more stressed out than adults. That piece of news came straight from the American Psychological Association. The summation went like this:

The agency’s Stress in America survey found that 30 percent of teens reported feeling sad or depressed because of stress and 31 percent felt overwhelmed… On average, teens reported their stress level was 5.8 on 10-point scale, compared with 5.1 for adults.

A high school guidance counselor told the reporter of the huge increase in teens showing up with anxiety and depression. Elaine Leader, head of the national “Teen Line” hotline based at prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, confirmed that teen stress has become worse in the past few years.

It is of course a multifactorial problem. It seems like kids can do very little just for fun anymore. Sports are relentlessly competitive. While hanging out using social media provides plenty of connection and entertainment, it is just as likely to be a source of anxiety and even menace.

And success in school has become more crucial than ever before. The network’s JoNel Aleccia reported:

An increased emphasis on make-or-break school testing and sharp focus as early as middle school on future college or career plans can be intense for some kids… About 31 percent of kids said their stress level had increased in the past year, twice as many as those who said it went down. And 34 percent said they expected their stress level would rise in the coming year.

Add to the mix the eternal problems of adolescence — trying to win independence from parental control, figuring out the boy-girl stuff, and generally solving the puzzle of finding one’s place in the world. As a result, an ever-growing number of teens “crack under the pressure.”

One of the ways they crack is to develop an eating disorder that can go either way — the kind based on self-deprivation and the illusion of control, such as anorexia, or the kind based on thoughtless self-indulgence and the abandonment of all discipline. And let’s face it, of the two, the route that leads to obesity is much less work. Next thing you know, another 250-pound 12-year-old learns all about the meaning of “vicious cycle.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Psychological Effects of Obesity on Adolescents | Medifast Arizona,”, 04/16/14
Source: “Teens More Stressed-Out Than Adults, Survey Shows,”, 02/11/14
Photo credit: wsilver via Visualhunt/CC BY

Must Addiction Always Win Over Motivation?

The question of how to motivate kids to desire a healthy weight is an ever-puzzling challenge. Despite research showing that an obese child’s “Quality of Life” score is about the same as that of a young cancer patient, the roadblocks seem innumerable.

For example, it might be that a young person has plenty of motivation. It’s just that the motivation is already fully engaged in taking her or him down an unfortunate path. It may be that kids are not motivated to lose weight because they are in thrall to addiction just as much as a meth head or a heroin junkie.

The condition of being hooked provides motivation toward only one end, which is obtaining more of the addictor. This very unhealthy drive might lead a kid to sneakily obtain and hide the substance, steal it, steal money to buy it, etc., as confessed by Michael Prager in his book Fat Boy Thin Man.

The consequences were bad enough in the old days, but look what can happen in the current societal climate. In Chicago, a security guard in a primary school took it upon himself to display a bit too much of the spirit of overachievement. Sarah K. Burris reported:

One child’s love for candy led to her being put under the school’s stairs wearing handcuffs. Six-year-old Madisyn Moore, a student at Fernwood Elementary, took candy off of her teacher’s desk last week and the security guard decided to teach her a lesson. It was nearly an hour later before the girl’s mom was able to rescue her.

Others might wonder why the teacher left such a temptation out in the open, or what part the teacher played in allowing the child to be taken out in restraints and stuffed into a confined space. The point is, addiction trumps any other motive and eradicates every other value. Addiction wins every time. Or does it?

From the study of communications from thousands of young people, Dr. Pretlow has noticed that tolerance develops to highly pleasurable foods, and these foods act exactly like drugs of abuse. In “Perspective: Why Do Kids Overeat?” which first appeared in Clinical Endocrinology News and then was republished elsewhere, he wrote:

The way these youth describe their relationship with food comes close to satisfying all of the DSM-IV substance dependence criteria… Morbidly obese kids are likely in addictive tolerance mode and eat more or worse foods to obtain the same coping effect.

By the DSM definition, addiction interferes with life by making other values and rewards irrelevant. The lack of alternate motivation is part of the very definition of addiction. Is everything else meaningless because all motivation is focused around one goal? Or is all motivation focused on one goal — getting more of that stuff — because everything else is empty? What motivates someone to deal with addiction? That’s the real question.

In the presentation “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” in slides 99 through 101 Dr. Pretlow contemplates answers for the question, “Where do we go from here?” One possibility is to redesign weight loss programs to be more like substance abuse dependence programs — which is, of course, exactly what the W8Loss2Go smartphone app does.

Camps and residential weight-loss centers have an advantage, because the withdrawal period from problem foods (addictors) can be enforced, and the food that is provided can be controlled. However, the proportion of obese kids who can afford to sign in to such places is miniscule. E-Health International sets out to prove that the same results can be obtained by people acting autonomously, with the help of W8Loss2Go.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Crying 6-year-old put in handcuffs under school’s stairs for taking candy off teacher’s desk,”, 03/20/16
Source: “Perspective: Why Do Kids Overeat?,”, 07/09/10
Image by Jeff Djevdet

W8Loss2Go Study Slated by Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Not long ago, Childhood Obesity News reported on the fourth W8Loss2Go study that is currently underway in Washington state. Now, a new and next-level study is in preparation. Its very explicit title is “W8Loss2Go: Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention Utilizing Mobile Health Technology in Pediatric Patients Referred to a Tertiary Care Center Weight Management Clinic.”

In practical terms, this means Children’s Hospital Los Angeles will road-test the W8Loss2Go smartphone application. The program was created by Dr. Pretlow and E-Health International and will be open to patients enrolled with the Children’s Hospital EMPOWER Weight Management Clinic. (The acronym EMPOWER stands for Energy Management for Personalized Weight Reduction.)

The principal investigator is Steven Mittelman, MD, who serves as director of the institution’s Diabetes & Obesity Program, under the auspices of the Center for Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism.

The rise of mHealth

The terms mHealth and m-health are both short for “mobile health,” which expresses the concept of medicine and public health as practiced with the support of mobile devices. Interest in the mHealth field is high because, finally, technology is available to provide an inestimable amount of help to medical professionals and patients alike. For many reasons, those two groups are often unable to reach each other, much as they might wish to.

Regarding the W8Loss2Go study, a secondary focus is the desire to “increase the amount of health provider-patient interaction outside of clinic based face-to-face-sessions in a cost-effective manner.” In other words, perhaps all mentoring activities do not need to be conducted in person. As part of the program, kids who are accepted will receive weekly phone calls from the study coordinator, one of whose functions is to provide motivation.

The study

The Children’sHospital study is in the category known as interventional, because it is the study of an intervention, namely, W8Loss2Go. The investigators will be looking for weight loss, more formally described as the reduction of BMI (body mass index.)

Also, does the app really help kids identify and eliminate their problem foods, quit snacking, and reduce the amount eaten at mealtimes? We believe it does, and the pilot studies have indicated that it does.

The literature speaks of an idea which, only a few short years ago, was considered outlandish:

It has been theorized that overeating in some individuals may have addictive qualities, and that specific foods may have addictive potential for these people…

mHealth interventions have been successful in the treatment of other addictions, the investigators hypothesize that mHealth technologies which are rooted in behavioral theory could be effective…

The subjects

The kids chosen for the 6-month program are between 12 and 18 years old, either gender, and they need to be signed up with the weight loss clinic. The application process goes like this:

New EMPOWER patients complete the Yale Food Addiction Study for Children (YFAS-c), a validated 25 item instrument designed to identify addictive behaviors related to food. […]

Enrolled subjects and their parents will complete the Eating Behaviors Questionnaire (EBQ-Merlo 2009), and then receive the app, an iPhone 5S (if needed), a wireless body weight scale, and a wireless food scale.

At the three-month mark, the kids will return to the clinic to be weighed and to have face-to-face meetings with their mentors. When the 6-month study is finished, they will of course have their weights charted, and will retake the EBQ. Aside from shedding pounds, the object is for them to become less attracted to food as a solution to every discomfort, and to free themselves from emotionally-motivated eating.

The study will start in April and run for six months, then all results will be tallied and the academic requirements for a correct report will be fulfilled, and the world will learn the results late in 2017. All the details are on the U.S. National Institutes of Health webpage.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “W8Loss2Go: mHealth Weight Management Strategy,”, Feb 2016
Image by E-Health International

Allergy, Addiction, and Obesity

Connections abound between obesity and addiction, and also between addiction and allergy. Dr. Pretlow conducted a poll asking obese children and teens if they had a problem with one particular food, and 61% of them said yes. In “Food Addiction in Children,” he made a comparison between the effects of life-threatening allergy and the effects of whatever particular addictor is present in a child’s diet.

Also, like the most allergenic foods, not one of the known highly addictive foods is necessary for life. The W8Loss2Go program is designed to help a person accomplish the totally doable process of unhooking from the most devastating addictors. Describing in a nutshell the poetic and pragmatic bond between addiction and allergy, Dr. Pretlow wrote:

Abstaining from any food, even such problem foods, may seem unreasonable. However, if kids were allergic to those foods, they would need to avoid them forever. Is obesity different?

Incredibly, food sensitivities cause people to crave the very foods to which they are allergic. All addictions are said to share this similarity. The body adapts to the allergen/addictor, then requires it, then fails to maintain the adaption and “experiences the allergic and addicted symptomatology simultaneously.” The problem then manifests as a chronic disease process, attacking whichever organ or system is genetically the weakest.

Dr. Stephen Levine calls allergic hunger “pathological” — in other words — sick, because it pays no attention to the brain’s satiety control center but compulsively overrides the built-in “enough, I’m full” mechanism. Just to drive the point home, he states that both addiction and allergy can cause uncontrollable eating behavior. He writes:

Patients afflicted with allergy-addictions will usually experience a sense of well being after a month on an allergen-free diet. Many individuals lose excess water from their tissues and achieve a weight loss of from 10 to 15 pounds.

Levine quotes several clinical ecologists, specialists in diagnosing and treating allergies, who universally acknowledge “the phenomenon of simultaneous allergy and addiction.” Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, for instance, recognizes how the inflammation caused by food sensitivities causes the body to hang onto water. When his patients eliminate allergy-provoking foods, water retention is no longer a problem. There is an initial water loss, followed by an effortless fat loss.

Dr. Charles McGee agrees that a person must identify the particular allergens, and eliminate them even though they are craved. This is exactly what the W8Loss2Go program is for — to identify the person’s addictive problem foods (to which they are very likely allergic) and break the chain of dependence.

Among the kids who responded to Dr. Pretlow’s poll, chocolate was a big winner. Childhood Obesity News has referenced Dr. Douglas Hunt, author of No More Cravings, who was both a medical doctor and a psychiatrist. Back in the 1980s he was tracing the connections between addiction and allergy, and found chocolate to be a regrettable food choice on both counts. He wrote:

Chocolate affects more tissues in the body than do inhalants, drug allergies, or infectant allergies.

Connections show up in all kinds of places, such as the fiercely-fought school baked-goods debate. In the old days, a mother would bring in several dozen cupcakes to help the class celebrate her child’s birthday, but that custom has been curtailed. Alison McCall reported:

Local food service directors say the practice just isn’t safe for children with food allergies and is at odds with the nation’s battle against childhood obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Food Addiction in Children,”, 2010
Source: “Food Addiction, Food Allergy and Overweight,”, 2004
Source: “Cupcakes in the classroom? Not anymore,”, 06/24/12
Photo via

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