Parents as Enablers and Saboteurs, Part 2

Mother's Day cake
The illustration on this page could be read in a couple of ways: one person might see a delicious Mother’s Day treat made specially for Mom. Which is probably what the photographer intended. Someone with a darker imagination — and you can picture this taking place in a psychiatrist’s office — might look at it and say,

‘Yes! It’s just like my nightmare! There’s this huge, heart-shaped pool of sticky sweet goop, and I fall into it, and when I swim to the side, there’s this other goop all around that’s slippery and it covers up the ladder so I can’t get out… I’m smothering in sticky sweet goop, and I’m gonna die… and somehow I know it’s not a pool… it’s Mom!’

We have discussed some of the ways in which parents can sabotage the efforts of obese children to gain control over their junk-food habits. Here is another report from Dr. Pretlow’s book, Overweight: What Kids Say. The writer is a 14-year-old girl, who, with only 5’2″ of height, tips the scales at an incredible 360 pounds. She says,

My mom and dad are both really obese. Their too obese to work and so all they do is eat and watch the TV. I’m home schooled and my parents let me eat whatever I want. We only have junk food in our house I eat A LOT of it. But now I know how much I actually weigh I realise that I don’t want to end up like them and so I wanna try lose some of the weight. …and I love to eat. How can i lose weight when all my parents will buy is junk food!? I love eating so how do i stop eating so much?

And this from a 15-year-old:

Okay, I have seriously done terriblely. I need a good kick in the butt. But my father likes to stock the house with alot of unhealthy things and of course I eat them. Oh well, I guess i have to start over….again, this is seriously getting me down.

There is a dissenting opinion from a 15-year-old named Melissa, who says you don’t have to blame your parents for your weight problem. She says, “They may buy the food, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it.” Bravo for Melissa, but if she can resist junk food on the premises, staring her in the face, sending out its vibes that say, “Eat me, eat me!” — she is an extremely rare human.

All this insider info about the world of overweight and obese children and teens comes from Weigh2Rock, the virtual meeting place where they can swap experiences and encourage each other. But Weigh2Rock is not only for the young. It includes a capacious “Parents of Overweight Kids” area, a special section that lays out such topics as the causes of overweight, and the difference between a weight problem and an eating problem.

What does it mean, anyway, to be medically overweight? How do you tell if your child has a weight problem? There is also information about the present and future health implications for the overweight or obese child, along with interpretation of the latest research in the field, and a whole lot more, including a parents’ bulletin board and a new parents’ chatroom.

There is a lot to discuss. Even the idealized two-parent nuclear family struggles with these problems, and the problems get so much worse in divided families. The two-household kid faces a real dilemma. Shared custody can be a gigantic obstacle to overcome. Former spouses can sabotage not only each other, but their children, trying to buy love or be the “good guy,” trying to prove how wrong the other parent is. When this turns into a food fight, the consequences can be ugly.

Foster care can be a complication, where kids are too insecure or too frightened to express any preferences at all, or so troubled in other ways that eating habits are seen as a low-priority issue.

It seems like there’s always something. As Pam Fessler says,

Hunger in America is complicated. It’s not just getting enough food, but getting the right food — and making the right choices.

Fessler goes on to quote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who explains how it’s possible for such a large number of children to be both overweight and undernourished at the same time:

He said there’s a similarity between low-income families trying to stretch scarce food dollars with high-calorie processed foods, ‘and youngsters who are just flat out not getting fed because their parents don’t have the resources to feed them.’

And sometimes the parents don’t have the temperament to do anything other than yell or give up. Nobody likes being blamed, so let’s call it taking responsibility and accountability, which is what we as parents need to do.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,”
Source: “Parents of Overweight Kids Area,”
Source: “Eating Nutritiously A Struggle When Money Is Scarce,”, 07/20/10
Image by turtlemom4bacon, used under its Creative Commons license.

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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.

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