Social Networking and Obesity, Part 6

Superhero Squad

So, we were discussing the positive effects of social networking via electronic devices, and how the Pew Research Center’s findings show, among other things, that social networkers are more likely to be politically active. This is a good thing, because the childhood obesity epidemic seems to be in need of some political intervention, especially at the local level.

We looked at online 12-step programs and other treatment and self-help formats that are adaptable to the keyboard and screen. In chat rooms and discussion groups, people struggling with weight issues lend each other aid and comfort. Children and teens (and Weigh2Rock is a shining example — the best example, in fact) are able to find peers to talk with, who understand their particular problems, and share empathy, encouragement, and practical tips.

Previously, we quoted Dr. David Sack, discussing one of the reasons why the face-to-face social networking institution known as Alcoholics Anonymous is so effective. Another core value is service to others, something that helps people reclaim their self-esteem.

So, the founders of AA and the Weigh2Rock kids are in agreement. Recovery depends, in part, on how much one helps others, including emotional support in cyberspace. In Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow lists a number of factors that can help kids get through food withdrawal. His information was obtained, needless to say, from the kids who interact with the site. (To help spread information, consider donating a copy of Overweight: What Kids Say to the local public library or a school library.)

In Chapter 14, which is about success stories, Dr. Pretlow says,

Charting their progress helps boost motivation. Kids can weigh-in on personal weight charts on our site.

Online, a person can make use of elaborate mathematical tools and fill in the blanks in complicated charts and graphs he or she could never have constructed on his or her own. Making a plan is important, and electronic media are very well suited to that. Testimonials are helpful, both hearing them and giving them. Personal stories have a lot of power. So does accountability.

People, including the young ones, and even children, do look for healthy lifestyle tips online, and they will listen to both experts and peers. But here’s the thing. They’re not looking for “What?” They know all about “what.” Everybody knows that celery is better for you than chocolate-covered bacon, it’s yesterday’s news.

They are looking for “How?” They want to know how to resist that bag of cinnamon-pineapple pork rinds, staring them in the face. Sharing this information is the real deal, and it’s greatly facilitated by various kinds of social networking and electronic media.

It has been suggested that what kids want more than anything is to be cool, or whatever is the current word that expresses the concept. There have always been kids who are just way too cool to be hassled. Kids who might be nerdish or weird, or who defy the peer group conventions in some way, yet nobody gives them a hard time about it.

Try this theory on for size: Kids want to know how to say “no” to a trip to the fast-food joint with their friends. Or how to go in, but just drink water. Kids want to know how, in general, to say “no” to stuff they actually don’t want to get mixed up in, and carry it off without losing what some cultures call “face,” without being dissed or beat up. Anyone who has a workable answer to that question needs to get online and share it!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Charlie Sheen claims AA has a 5% success rate — is he right?,” LA Times, 03/03/11
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,”
Image by sittered, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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