Why Parents Don't Want to Hear About Food Addiction, Part 3

Hear No Evil

Once the food addiction paradigm has been introduced, some conclusions follow, whether fair or not is yet to be decided. One conclusion is that parents who leave a child’s food addiction untreated, to the point of morbid obesity, are just as culpable as parents who encourage and enable a nicotine habit in a minor.

Time.com Wellness blogger Tiffany O’Callaghan tackles the subject of whether the parents of obese children should be charged with criminal neglect. If the law needs to become involved, one of the obstacles is that nobody really knows whether obese kids do better in foster homes than with their real parents. Obviously, more research needs to be done.

This should be irrelevant, but it seems like the foster parents would necessarily have to be non-obese. That is, if the theory is correct, that a child’s biggest role model is the same-sex parent. What would be the point of moving a kid from an obese mother to an obese foster mother? Then, you get into the question of prospective foster parents filing claims of discrimination. Nothing is simple.

What would it take to make sure that every child is guaranteed a healthy upbringing? O’Callaghan suggests that this would need to start pre-conception, because…

[…] a growing body of research suggests that early decisions made by parents — even before conceiving as well as during pregnancy and infancy — can have a significant impact on a their baby’s risk for obesity throughout childhood and later in life.

A tall order, but, once childhood obesity manifests, many people feel that it should be considered on the same level as other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, where the parents can be legally punished for not providing treatment.

What is the proper amount of accountability of parents? After all, plump children are demonstrably being well provided for, right? Also, parents can’t help passing on hereditary genes. If you come from a family that doesn’t see anything to worry about in overweight, it’s hard to escape the mindset. “We’re all big-boned on my side of the family” is a typical rationalization from a dismissive parent who doesn’t want to see the obvious.

We have talked about the notion of prosecuting the parents of morbidly obese children. Where is the line between passive ignorance and active destructiveness? Some serious forms of child abuse can never be legally charged to anyone, yet, they exist.

This is manifested in the intense comments made by kids who respond to Dr. Pretlow’s questionnaires on the Weigh2Rock website. Almost half of the kids who have responded to the “Should extremely overweight kids be taken away from their parents?” question agreed that their parents were “part of the cause” for their overweight condition, though far fewer of them went along with the idea of separating families. The issue did elicit quite a range of comments, however. A 429-pound 10-year-old says,

[…] i am so fat i think i should may be get sent away.

One girl talks about parents who make their children feel bad by calling them fat and hurting their feelings. She recommends taking a child away to have a happy life with some other parents, who show love and eat in a healthy way. On the other hand, a 14-year-old girl believes that putting overweight kids into foster care should be a last-resort solution, adding,

[…] although I think that some people who neglect their kids let them spin out of control and that’s when things become ridiculous and dangerous.

A 13-year-old girl says of foster homes, “That’s just crazy!” And a 15-year-old boy weighing in at nearly 300 pounds asks what is so wrong with a kid being fat? (Because most people in the United States are fat, anyway, so it’s normal.) There’s a flaw in that argument, but schools don’t teach formal logic any more.

However, there is another argument that is more difficult to counter: the freedom argument. The personal rights argument. How much of this is politically sane, and how much is over-reaching “fat acceptance” rhetoric is a topic for another day.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Is childhood obesity a symptom of neglect?,” Time.com, 07/16/10
Source: “Should extremely overweight kids be taken away from their parents?” poll, Weigh2Rock
Image by Sun_Dazed, used under its Creative Commons license.

0 Responses

  1. In the 60’s, America’s childhood obesity was Russia’s fault. My mother would say, “Finish your dinner. Children are starving in Russia.”

    I didn’t know why my mother was worried about Communist children in a faraway land, but I certainly didn’t want them to go hungry on my account. So I finished everything on my plate. Except calves liver. If those commie kids died of malnutrition because I didn’t eat liver, so be it. Those moppets in Minsk were ungrateful for my sacrifice anyway; even though I suffered a chubby childhood for them, they were still threatening to nuke us. (more at laughs4dads.com)

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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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