America, Leader in Fat Acceptance

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Childhood Obesity News mentioned the discouraging report from Pennsylvania’s Lincoln University, on how the school had to change its policy when the compulsory physical fitness program was fiercely criticized. The authors of this paper also commented on some other aspects of obesity among contemporary youth.

For instance, most high school athletes are, not surprisingly, in excellent condition. But there are troublesome exceptions:

… [O]ffensive and defensive football linemen will often exceed 300 pounds with waist circumferences above the 40 inch limit. Not surprisingly, professional football linemen experience a lifespan 17 fewer years than their skilled position counterparts (receivers and defensive backs). Noel et al. (2003) reported that these linemen experienced a greater likelihood of heart disease and stroke when their abdominal fat deposits rise to higher levels.

Another astonishing fact the team dredged up: From 1992 to 2007, during a 15-year period, the U.S. Army discharged 24,000 of its members for being overweight. These were people who somehow managed to exceed the weight/body fat percentage limits while they were on active duty, because, otherwise, they wouldn’t have been inducted in the first place.

How does this happen? If even such a maximally authoritarian institution as the military is unable to keep its own members in the healthy weight range, what chance do parents and school board have to keep kids from becoming obese?

One of the difficulties with childhood obesity, as Dr. Pretlow has said many times, is that parents are unwilling to confront the problem. For more on that, we recommend his presentation “Problem Foods and Childhood Obesity” and his article in the journal Eating Disorders, “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic.”

Parents can be especially resistant to change if they are in the habit of using sweet treats as bribes for good behavior, or even to outright buy their children’s affection. But Dr. Pretlow says:

The truth shall set you free and truth is what works! Accepting bodies as they are is okay but we need to be cautious that we are not promoting fat acceptance.

British writer Nick Harding explored the possibility that “fatsploitation” could actually be aiding and abetting the obesity epidemic. He interviewed California “fat activist” Marilyn Wann, who founded the indie publication Fat! So? with the goal of neutralizing the negative and unkind connotations of this particular F-word.

Wann says she herself is fat “with pride,” and is quoted as saying:

I became a rad fatty the day a guy I was seeing told me he was embarrassed by me being fat and I was denied health insurance based on weight alone.

The writer also talked with filmmaker and fat-acceptance activist Kira Nerusskaya, of New York, who wants to see overweight actors being cast in lead roles, not just as comedic human joke-butts. Harding predicts that in another 40 years, the obese people will be in the majority. He calls the worldwide online mutual support network of activists the “fatosphere.”

It’s always interesting to see America from an outsider’s viewpoint, and what Harding sees is a country whose colleges are introducing fat studies into their curricula, along with gender and race studies. He goes on to say:

In the US, where two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese, the forthcoming book The Fat Studies Reader argues the problem is not obesity per se but the way it is presented in culture. Sociologists point to a ‘societal fat phobia’ which engenders prejudice against the obese — and argue that this prejudice is tolerated by those who would never dream of making racist or sexist remarks.

Speaking of books, watch for the upcoming publication of Why Are We Fat? which Dr. Pretlow is co-authoring with Paul Kramer, author of Maggie Goes on a Diet.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity Acceptance: Recipe For A Pandemic,” American Journal of Health Sciences, 2012
Source: “Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” The Independent, 07/20/09
Image by Anne Rossley, 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.

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