Childhood Obesity and Minority Groups

The Ribs

Full disclosure: John Foreyt, Ph.D., wrote the Foreword to Overweight: What Kids Say, and he’s a friend. In fact, so good a friend that in the Acknowledgements section of the book, Dr. Pretlow says,

This book wouldn’t have happened were it not for the inspiration and encouragement of Dr. John Foreyt and his conviction that these remarkable kids have a message which must be heard. John has never wavered in his support of the radical notion that overweight and obese kids might be addicted to the pleasure of eating…

Dr. Foreyt has written a few books of his own, nearly 20 of them in fact, and published more than 200 articles in the areas of pediatrics, psychiatry, and medicine. He is a professor in all three of those departments, and knows an awful lot about eating disorders, obesity, and how to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In addition to the job titles already mentioned, Dr. Foreyt also directs the Behavioral Medicine Research Center at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. The researchers there work both with the obese, and with healthy individuals:

Studies at the Behavioral Medicine Research Center include efforts to improve methods to reduce body weight in obese individuals, blood pressure in hypertensive patients, glucose in diabetic patients, and lipid levels in dyslipidemic patients.

Many health professionals used to believe that obesity didn’t cause disease, rather it was the diet of obese individuals that caused disease. That may be mostly true in regard to cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. But it’s now known that obesity directly causes type 2 diabetes, which results in blindness, kidney failure, loss of limbs, and substantially worsens cardiovascular disease. Plus, obesity causes fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, joint failure, polycystic ovary syndrome, and asthma.

On the Baylor website, Dipali Pathak outlines some of Dr. Foreyt’s beliefs, like how it’s possible to have a normal weight and still be obese, because obesity is measured by excess body fat, not by weight. The proportion of body fat affects cardiovascular health. A human male should consist of around 15% body fat. More than 25% fat, and that’s obese. Women get off a little easier, with an allowable 25% body fat, not being considered obese until the 35% mark is reached.

In other words, weight and fitness are not synonymous. The overweight/fit combination is better than being normal weight, and unfit.

The Center has examined low-calorie diets, drug therapy, and nutritional supplements as means of weight control, and concentrates on figuring out behavioral changes and fitness strategies that will actually be carried out by actual people.

Although other recent studies indicate that exercise doesn’t make much difference to weight loss, it certainly makes a difference to every part of the body and to the system as a whole. Dr. Foreyt likes to see people walk briskly for an hour, and often.

Minority group members are at particularly high risk for quite a few obesity-related diseases, so part of Dr. Foreyt’s research has focused on health for the black and Hispanic populations. His work has included studies such as “Weight Reduction for Mexican Americans” and “Long-Term Outcome of Obesity Treatment in Minority Women: Black American Lifestyle Intervention.”

In March of 2010, Science Daily reported on Dr. Foreyt’s latest research with nutritionists Craig A. Johnston and Chermaine Tyler. The young participants were either already obese or headed that way, and the conclusion they reached is that a school-based weight-management program is not a bad idea, if it’s done right:

Statistics that the scientists reported for the 6-month study were based on 57 overweight kids who were assigned to either a self- and parent-taught program, or, instead, an intensive, instructor-led regimen…When evaluated at the end of the 6-month study, kids in the intensive, instructor-led course had significantly greater weight loss as well as greater ‘physical quality of life’ — as measured by their answers to a standard questionnaire-than did the kids in the self-taught program. What’s more, one and two years later, youngsters in the instructor-led team had significantly greater decreases in their body mass index, or BMI, than did the self-taught youngsters.

Dipali Pathak’s account of Dr. Foreyt’s philosophy reminds us of a thing that is often forgotten. Kids just don’t understand that they will encounter old age, sickness, and death. They don’t have the capacity to understand a concept like, “Bad eating habits today, major medical problem 10 years down the road.”

And the kids who do know about old age, sickness, and death are even worse off because that means they live in a neighborhood of drive-by shootings or worse. This is a major point that needs to be better understood. Minority kids have enough going against them already. But obesity is a disadvantage that can be overcome. It doesn’t have to happen.

Given their general lack of worry about the future, it may or may not be helpful to teach kids that just because you’re skinny or fit now it doesn’t mean you can get away with eating indiscriminately. It will catch up with you eventually.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “John P. Foreyt, Ph.D.,” Baylor College of Medicine
Source: “Body fat not weight determines obesity,”, 09/17/10
Source: “Kids Lose Pounds, Gain Fitness in Houston Study,” ScienceDaily, 03/03/10
Image by Danielle Walquist Lynch, used under its Creative Commons license.

2 Responses

  1. Hi,

    The stats are there and and still there. Therefore as much as I appreciate your knowledge one thing is not there—teaching parents how to make better more healthful choices easily and affordably. After all old habits 9reaching for the soda, keeping the baby happy and occupied with little nibbles of cereals and crackers, and opening a bag and heating the fatty sugar infused salty contents for a meal) are often hard to change!
    Therefore I would like to send and offer you a little cookbook written to ease the path toward making moderate changes at home for the sake of their children’s physical mental, and emotional health.

    If interested please contact me.

    Thank you for your time and dedication to the kids!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

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