The Role of Parents in Childhood Obesity

Harvest: Enormous Cucumber

Nancy Churnin of the Dallas Morning News recently interviewed three doctors about keeping kids healthy, and the very first suggestion she lists concerns childhood obesity:  Get an early start. For instance, high fructose corn syrup should be a no-no, right from the beginning. She passes on some interesting information from Dr. Chris Straughn of Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, who says,

[… A] March study published in Pediatrics finds that children who eat meals regularly with their family, get adequate sleep and limit their television time to no more than two hours per day had a 40 percent reduction in obesity compared to kids who had none of these routines.

We just got through a holiday, and more are on the way. There are always more holidays. In every culture, for most people, the appropriate method of celebrating any holiday is to eat a lot, especially if the food is richer and sweeter than the everyday fare. In Dr. Pretlow’s presentation “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say” please take a look at Slide 22 (and listen too).

It’s just a shame that young people come to fear and dread the holidays. A major project we could be working on is the exclusion of junk food from festivals. There could be a candy-free Easter. There could be a candy-free Halloween. What we really need is some new ways of celebrating holidays.

Nobody suggests that we climb onto a bandwagon with a “Blame the Parents” banner waving in the breeze. At the same time, parents do control the menu. No, not always, not exclusively, and not for as long as we’d like. Except for someplace like a remote farm, parents rarely have total control.

But — and it’s a big but — as parents, we have more control than anybody else. To relinquish that control at home is to do the kids a disservice. Especially when the kids are too small and helpless to go anyplace on their own. What, a two-year-old is going to jump in the car and drive down to the convenience store? If the only thing we make available to a child is real food, it will be eaten. When America’s pioneers lived in sod huts on the prairie, how many kids starved to death because they were holding out for a bag of jalapeno-pineapple double-fried pork rinds?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “5 ways parents can keep their kids well,” Dallas Morning News, 05/05/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock
Image by woodleywonderworks, 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.

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