Has Overweight Become In Style?

slim fashions

Styles come and go in our culture. Wasp waistlines were the style in the 1950s. (And women wore hats for decoration, not just to keep their ears warm.) There was a time when grade school kids did calisthenics to the (caution: earworm alert!) tune of “Chicken Fat,” written by Meredith Willson of The Music Man fame.

Fitness was big in the 1980s when Jane Fonda inspired millions to stuff themselves into leotards (and no item of clothing is more form-fitting). Many women remember with fondness the days when men wore tight blue jeans. Except for maternity outfits and the occasional muumuu, people did not wear big, roomy, billowing, capacious garments.

Today, oversize clothes seem to be the style, and it becomes one of those eternally puzzling questions, like which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well… Sometimes a person can’t help wondering whether the baggy clothes fad is a result of the overweight epidemic, or perhaps it somehow has caused it.

Dr. Pretlow was curious to know what kids thought. So curious, in fact, that the very first poll he designed for the Weigh2Rock website asked that very question. It was phrased in a structured form, with multiple-choice answers, and altogether 617 kids voted on“Which of the following do you think is the main reason the number of overweight kids has doubled since 1980?” Here are the results:

Kids today are less active than in the past: 268 votes (43%)
Today’s food is more fattening: 180 votes (29%)
Kids clothes are looser today and hide being overweight: 169 votes (27%)

In other words, a certain proportion of young people attribute the obesity epidemic to more fattening food, and almost as many, within 2 percentage points, blame it on looser fashions. That’s amazing. Maybe they’re only fooling. In some cases, you really have to hope they’re just exhibiting a bizarre sense of humor. On the subject of the contemporary loose clothing style, a 265-pound boy replied in what may or may not have been a sarcastic spirit:

Best thing ever I love being fat now I can gain and gain and gain and be the fattest kid in the world.

Yes, says Dr. Pretlow, there actually are a number of self-described gainers out there, “who profess to enjoy being fat and eating whatever they want.” In this world nothing is impossible, so maybe there are some kids who get fat on purpose and who enjoy it.

What is probably going on psychologically is, they are in denial about being addicted to food. It’s an easy thing to fool oneself about. “Hey, I can live without broccoli for months at a time,” such a person might say. “What do you mean, addicted?” The problem is, there are problem foods. Undeniably, certain foods (using the term loosely) are well-nigh irresistible to the vulnerable.

Another problem is, in online chat-rooms and message boards and forums, these mixed-up “gainers” try to proselytize kids who are struggling to lose or maintain weight. Like “cutters,” who find relief in self-injury, “gainers” sometimes prefer to form support groups to reinforce their behavior, rather than look for true healing.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Poll,” Weigh2Rock.com
Image by Dipity.com, provided by Dr. Pretlow.

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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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