Kid, Parent, or Professional – Are You in Denial?

Oooh Baby

“Of course not!” That’s a normal human response, when somebody suggests that we refuse to face the truth about something. We deny that there is a problem, including the problem of our non-recognition of the problem. That’s why they call it denial!

Lisa Claudia Briggs asks us the question, “Is denial blocking your progress?” Briggs is a therapist and mentor in the field of eating disorders, whose practice encompasses guided imagery and relaxation, energy medicine, psychology, and an eclectic assortment of techniques with which she has helped people for 20 years. Briggs says,

I do believe that those of us with a longstanding history of food addiction are indeed addicts. It has taken me years to believe this, chiefly because of my own personal denial. But denial does not usually serve us, it keeps us from knowing what is true and then being free to act on it. I am a food addict, and that informs the choices that I make to stay well and live a happy life of freedom and wellbeing.

To stop the damage done by addiction, the first thing is to admit that you really can’t control the behavior that comes with this complicated syndrome. Briggs offers a list of questions to ponder. She finds it helpful to use the recovering addict’s tool that is sometimes called “journaling,” but many people travel the recovery path without ever writing anything down. Either way, it’s a worthwhile exercise.

Parents of overweight children can be in denial for a number of reasons, even some that seem good. There are still old-fashioned stay-at-home parents around, who delight in baking sweet treats for the family. There was an advertising slogan, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven.” For some parents, overnurturing may be the only way they feel comfortable expressing love. Who wants to be told that making chocolate chip cookies for a child is actually enabling an addiction?

A lot of overweight people reject the addiction paradigm. If the key to weight loss resembles a 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program, they won’t go near it. It’s the same with kids, plus they’ve got the normal teenage rebellion thing going on. According to the normal adolescent mindset, adults are, at best, misguided fools and, at worst, the Enemy. The thinking goes something like this: “If the grownups want me to be fit, then forget it, I’ll be fat.”

One-third of the kids who have responded to Dr. Pretlow’s polls are honest enough to make the connection between comfort eating and their feelings of sadness, depression, rejection, and loneliness. In his presentation, “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say” you can go straight to Slide 25, which is actually a video clip, in which a young boy in exactly this situation talks about his confusion and frustration.

Many kids, in fact, realize that they use food like a drug, and self-identify as addicts in post after post on the message board at Weigh2Rock. They are brave enough to face it, and who will help them take it from there?

Some folks use the blog’s comment feature; some get in touch by other means. This quotation is from a multi-talented adult, William Geronimo Bohrer, on the subject of food addiction:

I used to have junkie dreams about candy. I’d wake up unsure of whether I’d eaten that box of peppermint patties or not, but they sure tasted sweet. I’m not mocking. For real, a friend of mine who was an addiction counselor was dumbfounded when I described these dreams. He heard them every day from heroin junkies trying to kick.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Is Denial Blocking Your Progress?,”, 06/17/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock
Image by emilio labrador, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources