Parents Talk Amongst Themselves About Childhood Obesity

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For a website called Mommyish, Nadia Bruno has launched a new column devoted to childhood obesity in relation to fast food and junk food. She talks about how she was raised, and how she turned out, and addresses the underlying ambivalence that causes her real life to not always be in alignment with her online persona.

Bruno often receives suggestions on what to blog about, because people are interested in her thoughts, which she freely admits are sometimes conflicted:

I only eat fast food an average of about once a year, and every time I do I repeat the same things. ‘This is disgusting! Why am I eating this? People feed this to their children? Ugh!’ In reality, I know what it’s like to be that kid who craved those salty fries, so I don’t actually harbor much bias against people whose kids eat fast food as an occasional treat.

Bruno’s citizen journalism is fueled by conversations in a 20,000-member Facebook group called “STFU Parents” — which gives a hint of the adult language sometimes used in the exchanges between parents. They also reveal things that used to only be heard in group therapy.

It is an interesting place to learn what is on the minds of that often-abused group, the well-intentioned parents who are trying hard. The culpability of moms and dads in childhood obesity is an ever-popular subject of debate, but the topics range far and wide, and the writer has ventured into such areas as, “5 Reasons to Keep Your Baby’s Constipation Off Facebook.”

When a parent complains that fast-food apples are no longer covered with caramel, Bruno remarks:

It’s pretty sad when the only reason a child eats or orders fruit is if it’s slathered in a gooey, artificially-flavored caramel sauce.

Bruno discusses the photo someone posted on Facebook, of a very small baby clutching an empty McDonald’s fries container, and deals with a mom who announces she is “PROUD to announce I let my kids drink Coke, eat candy, and all the junk food out there.”

A commentator called “Snapfish” adds:

I often hear complaints like ‘But my baby only wants to eat pizza/bacon/burgers/pop’ — the child wouldn’t if you had never given him/her those things in the first place.

One thing Bruno says — and this is really worth thinking about — is that parents ideally will wait as long as possible before exposing their children to soda pop, fast food, or anything else of the kind. Really, parents will never again have the power over kids that they have in the first few years. Why not make good use of this temporary advantage? It should be totally possible to avoid feeding a kid any junk, and, as long as their innocence lasts, they won’t even know they’re missing anything.

One participant says:

I am someone who grew up in a neighborhood with plenty of fast food access and very little fresh produce access in a single parent home. I am an active person and I’ve never been overweight… but this life set my siblings up for obesity. It isn’t a good thing, but I also don’t think it’s a good thing to look down on those who think of fast food as a normal meal cause I feel like it’s basically looking down on and making fun of poor people.

But the first thing it occurs to ask this poster is, if their shared childhood set her siblings up for obesity, then how did she escape? By being “active”? Then why let her siblings off the hook? They too could have made the choice to be active.

Another reader challenges the widely accepted notion that fast food is cheaper than home cooking. Sure, time is always an issue, but it may be just as economical to stop by a supermarket and pick up a bag of prepared salad.

It’s not impossible for a parent, preferably with the help of the children, to devote a couple of hours to making something like a giant pot of stew that can be consumed over two or three days. Thanks to modern refrigeration, a family can designate a “cooking morning” and prepare a group of what the Army calls MREs, or “meals ready to eat.” While they peel and chop vegetables, they can watch TV and examine the content for hidden merchandising, and pick apart the lies told in the advertising, analyzing their contribution to childhood obesity.

The comments appended to this one particular post go on and on, and the discussion gets pretty heated. To the aspiring health care professional who really wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes with the patients, this single web page is worth a semester’s worth of sociology classes. What an education!

And be sure to check out the “Parents” section at Weigh2Rock, which includes a parents’ bulletin board and chat room, as well as many other indispensable resources.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “STFU, Parents: Fast Food Bites, Caramel Apple Meltdowns And Childhood Obesity On Facebook,” Mommyish, 04/04/12
Image by Oneras (Mario Antonio Pena Zapateria), used under its Creative Commons license.

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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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