Why Parents Don’t Want to Hear About Food Addiction, Part 7


Many parents have heard about food addiction, just like they have heard of other theories and discoveries in the childhood obesity field. And, for some, there is a compelling reason not to think about the food addiction paradigm as it applies to the lives of their own children. It’s the same reason why we find it so unpleasant to think about any possible cause of childhood obesity, because, as parents, we have become extremely sensitive to the implication that everything is always our fault.

There are mistakes that can be undone, and there are mistakes that can’t be undone. Although parents may be willing to be responsible and consider making changes, there are times when taking a position about something just doesn’t do a bit of good, because the thing is unalterable. Also, there are unavoidable facts of life over which we never had any control.

Take the notion of a genetic tendency to obesity. First of all, it’s a difficult subject to track, because people who share genetic material usually tend to share their environment, too. Subtlety is needed to differentiate between the effects of one or the other. Ethnicity is not a trait we choose, but a card we are dealt. While it is a terrible thing that African American and Hispanic children are more prone to be obese, it is also a fact that needs to be faced, without letting racism or the over-awareness of racism enter into it.

This is only one of the many difficulties that come up for parents when they get serious about childhood obesity awareness. High fructose corn syrup is another such diverting issue. Once you realize what that stuff is all about, you have to start thinking about the U.S. farm policy, and a whole range of subjects whose complexity may lead to a head cramp.

Then, along comes another theory. (Interestingly, childhood obesity is so ubiquitous, it could probably be found to correlate with just about anything.) Now, they tell us the link is the common tonsillectomy. So says Krissy Storrar, passing along information gleaned from the head and neck surgery journal, Otolaryngology, which says the body mass index, or BMI, of post-tonsillectomy kids will rise by as much as 5.5%. Not a huge number, but a significant enough percentage to raise some eyebrows, or possibly a red flag. The journal article said,

Children consume more when tonsils are taken out.

But what good does it do to know that? Should the parents of an obese child feel guilty about consenting to the removal of tonsils, several years in the past? What choice was there? Who were we to disagree with the otolaryngologists?

Parents don’t want to think about things like food addiction, and how tubby their kids are getting, because they are tired of being blamed for things they can’t help. Of course the kids don’t like certain life situations either, like being dragged around from pillar to post, or having to change schools, because of circumstances they had nothing to do with creating. Divorce, for instance. Kids get all stressed out, and the comfort eating kicks in.

After a long night at one of her two jobs, the last thing a single mom wants to relax with is an article titled “How Divorce & Single Parenting Causes Your Child To Overeat.” The children of single mothers are more likely to be obese, and Dr. Richard Lipman explains exactly why. He has an interesting philosophy that deserves attention:

Having an overweight child or teen trying to eat different food from the rest of the family never works. His motto is, ‘everyone can eat healthier, normal or overweight.’

And, of course, “The Longer Mom Works, the More Overweight the Kids” (hyperlink is ours), as we are told by The Huffington Post and a very large number of other news sources that are anxious to announce the negative effects of maternal employment, and really rub it in. This is another part of the Childhood Obesity Perfect Storm. Maybe if not for so many other adverse factors, working mothers alone could not have accounted for even a small epidemic. But, as Dr. Pretlow points out, most parents today are too busy to cook healthy food. Also, as the Nurturing Nutritionist has mentioned, latchkey kids who have to stay in until their parents get home from work are very prone to boredom eating.

But even as parents realize how harmful our working at jobs can be, we are pretty sure that unemployment would lead to even worse results. So what can we do? Not think about it!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood Obesity Highest Among Latinos,” Fox News, 01/21/11
Source: “Tonsils removal ‘linked to childhood obesity’,” The Daily Mirror, 01/02/11
Source: “How Divorce & Single Parenting Causes Your Child To Overeat,” EzineArticles.com
Source: “Childhood Obesity: The Longer Mom Works, the More Overweight the Kids,” The Huffington Post, 02/04/11
Image by colros (Colin Rose), 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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