Childhood Obesity Awareness Month Retrospective


Last month, September 2010, was Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and there are a few details we haven’t discussed yet. For instance, “Why is McDonald’s listed as a resource for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?” This question is posed by Michele Simon, a public health specialist who has taught health policy at UCLA. As a lawyer, she thinks up strategies to thwart corporate practices that affect the health of their customers. Simon has strong opinions:

I am not a fan of any sort of ‘awareness’ month as I find the concept trivializes important health issues. Are we only supposed to care about heart disease, diabetes, etc., during that one month of the year?

If you admire the ability to state a position, sum up an issue, apply common sense, or spot an angle nobody else has thought of, then Michele Simon is one of your favorite writers.

Simon is not alone in suspecting that Awareness Months, whatever good they accomplish, also provide far too tempting a platform for the publicity-oriented politicians. Which politician among them is not anxious to get as much press as possible? It would be hard for anybody in the political spectrum to deny that much. However, how much impact does hot air have on childhood obesity?

Is Congressperson X or Corporation Y supporting an issue, or jumping on the bandwagon? It’s all a matter of perspective. Another thing about Awareness Months: the ratio of “education” to actual action is not very encouraging. Sometimes it seems that designating an Awareness Month is pretty much the only action taken.

And, face it, there just aren’t that many months to go around. There are hundreds, thousands of issues, but the months are stuck at 12. So each one of them ends up being Everything But the Kitchen Sink Awareness Month.

Here’s a million-dollars idea for free: groups and causes could pick an astrological sign. It would be like opening up a new domain on the World Wide Web. Childhood obesity awareness could claim the time period ruled by the sign of Libra. Yes, the scales are rather threatening, but it’s the concept of balance we’re interested in. A person’s life will probably be optimized if the person is neither too skinny nor too fat. Balance is good.

Simon was not impressed by President Obama’s proclamation announcing Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which she describes as “milk-toast when it comes to policy change.” She goes on to say,

All of those ideas have been on the table for years, but little progress has been made. And he’s inviting Americans to find resources to help kids eat better? Not exactly cutting-edge. Finally, nothing even mentioning the role the food industry plays in undermining parents, no matter how much the First Lady tries to ’empower’ them with her Let’s Move campaign.

Furthermore, the government’s official website acknowledges McDonald’s as a supporter, and provides a link to its learn-about-nutrition fun-and-games website for kids, which Simon describes in unflattering terms. She is also highly suspicious of the corporation’s motives and intentions. Simon says,

I tried emailing the American College of Sports Medicine to find out how much money McDonald’s paid for the privilege, but have not yet heard back.

No matter how much the company threw into the anti-obesity coffers, Simon figures it gets way more than that value in free publicity. She points out how other members of the just-barely-food industry play the game, publicly applauding Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. But this is the sound of one hand clapping, because their other hand, full of lobbyist payola, is stretched out toward Washington, D.C. Simon also spotlights the absurdity of the American Beverage Association’s cheerleading, which urges us to:

Get informed. Get connected. Get involved.

What a joke. If we really did get informed, connected, and involved, the ABA’s would be among the first heads to roll. Simon concludes with a rather cynical observation:

And then, on October 1, everyone can go back to whatever they were doing before, having observed and been made aware. Problem solved.

Not around here! Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website is on the case during all 12 months (and every horoscope house). If you haven’t fully absorbed the variety and benefits of this great resource, now would be a good time. There are different areas for pre-teens, teens, and those over 18, and even a “Latina” section, and a section for parents, who need advice and encouragement just as much as the kids do.

Kids can have as much anonymity as they prefer, or they can send in pictures for an illustrated “My Story” page, like “Christoper’s Big Gut.” The young boy in the photographs is shaped like either a pregnant woman or a beer-guzzling middle-aged man, and he’s not happy about it. He wants help, and he’s come to the right place.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why is McDonald’s listed a resource for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?,” Appetite for Profit, 09/05/10
Source: “Christopher’s Big Gut ,”
Image by Beige Alert (Michael Pereckas), used under its Creative Commons license.

3 Responses

  1. I for one, will not wait for government or big business to change. The toxic food environment is only getting worse. If you want change, you must be motivated and willing to do it for yourself.

    Interestingly, it is very easy to make a change to a healthier lifestyle. How do I know this? I did it. I don’t need research studies to tell me the obvious: Our food system is toxic. Our health care system is a mess and the mass media is of zero assistance in this matter.

    Now to making the change very simple:

    1. Eat Whole Foods (I’m not referring to the grocery store)
    2. Stop eating junk food (fast food, candy, etc.)
    3. Minimize the consumption of processed food
    4. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
    5. Eat More … never go hungry (snack, snack, snack – not on Snickers, Skittles, and Soda)
    6. Consume more fiber and protein
    7. Consume less sugar, salt, and chemicals
    8. Exercise More
    9. And stop using excuses such as … I’m too busy … and I hate …

    To some, the above might sound difficult. Try it for 30 days and you will realize that it is not. You will not require willpower and you will not be deprived. And, you will find this quote to be very true:

    Good habits are as addictive as bad habits, and a lot more rewarding. – Harvey MacKay

    Ken Leebow

  2. When fast food chains start selling healthy food they will have earned the right to participate in the child obesity debate. Until then they should be banned from any involvement.

  3. I recommend a strategy other than beating up on McDonald’s. While people in the health, diet, and lifestyle community love to use McDonald’s as the model for all things bad, it’s stock is near and all-time high – .

    What does that mean? Business is good and people love its product.

    Yes, it’s junk, crap, and horrific food, but before it’s too late, a new strategy needs to be identified because Ronald and Co. are laughing all the way to the bank.

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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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