Why Parents Don't Want to Hear About Food Addiction, Part 1

Hands Down

Why do many parents reject the food addiction paradigm? One reason is a plain old denial in the face of irrefutable facts, such as statistics. Of course, it takes a bit of savvy to understand statistics, and, in the interpretation of the Body Mass Index charts, Dr. Ayala takes a backseat to no one. A pediatrician, Salon blogger, and lifelong vegetarian, Dr. Ayala answers an interesting question:

A friend of mine said she has a dumb obesity-related question for me: How can 15 percent of kids be above the 95th percentile?

We don’t want to spoil it for you — so all we will say for now is — this is definitely worth reading.

Bottom line? There is a lot of childhood obesity going on. This is not news, and objectively, it’s hard to argue with. Of course, there are parents who realize that a whole lot of overweight and obese kids are out there — it’s just that none happen to be their kid. The mind can play clever tricks to preserve a parent’s complacency. It’s simple — just shop around for a definition of the problem, and find one that your own children don’t happen to fall under.

Rachael Rettner tells us, via MSNBC’s Live Science, that, in the realm of too-chubby babies and toddlers, around 70 percent of their parents don’t even realize it. Yet, only a fraction of those oblivious parents had been warned of the danger by their pediatricians. Well, if their own kid’s doctor won’t even clue them in, how can the situation improve? In “Parents lowball heavy tots’ weight,” Rettner urges health professionals to step up to the plate, bite the bullet, and tell parents what they don’t want to hear.

Another factor is, parents are weary of taking the blame for everything. Rather than being let off the hook, parents are now the target of even more scholarly finger-pointing. Yes, it turns out that obesity in children correlates strongly with obesity in the same-sex parent. The implication here, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, is rather shocking. If genetics were the cause, we would expect to see fat daddies with an equal number of fat sons and daughters, and fat mommies with an equal number of fat daughters and sons. But no.

Research done for the EarlyBird Diabetes Study indicates that girls take after their mothers, and boys take after their fathers — which would seem to eliminate the genetic hypothesis. Imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, but the deadliest. Professor Terry Wilkin is quoted as saying,

The clearly defined gender-assortative pattern which our research has uncovered is an exciting one because it points towards behavioral factors at work in childhood obesity… We will need to focus on changing the behavior of the adult if we want to combat obesity in the child.

Sad but true: It looks like mothers and fathers cannot escape the burden of responsibility to set a healthful example.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood obesity: Can all kids be above average?,” OpenSalon.com, 06/14/10
Source: “Parents lowball heavy tots’ weight,” MSNBC, 06/22/10
Source: “Like Father, Like Son,” PCMD, 07/13/09
Image by The Sharpteam, used under its Creative Commons license.

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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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