If everyone who needs it could sign up for the very best kind of help for their problem, at an affordable price, the world would be a wonderful place. That world isn’t here yet. In the case of an obese child, the ideal solution might be a highly specialized residential program, but those are expensive. Most of the dangerously overweight kids out there will never have such an opportunity.
Meanwhile, people misguidedly seek solutions that are far from optimal. Life-altering surgery? Seriously? Take kids away from their parents? Really, must it come to that? Some extreme points of view have been expressed and some alarming things have been done in the name of curbing childhood obesity.
Dr. Pretlow suggests an affordable and widely available program, summarized by MedPage Today staff writer Kristina Fiore:
An anonymous social networking website, with an accompanying smartphone app, seemed to help obese youths lose weight without fear of public ridicule, a researcher said. Those who used the site, weigh2rock.com, self-reported a mean weight loss of 7.4 pounds, and those who used the partner app reported losing a mean 10 pounds over 4 months.
In the aftermath of the 19th European Congress on Obesity, some very favorable mentions have been made of Dr. Pretlow’s presentation, including a piece in MedScape which we also talked about. ABC News covered it, and a bunch of health websites and blogs. Even the British Telegraph reported on the talk, although the writer didn’t quite seem to understand what was said.
Considering that Dr. Pretlow concentrates on childhood obesity, it seems a little surprising to find a lengthy, detailed account of his Lyon presentation written by the editor of a website whose motto is, “Helping you care for senior loved ones and for yourself.” Despite its nominal constituency, HelpingYouCare provides a nice summary:
According to a press release issued by the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO), which hosts the annual European Congress on Obesity, Dr. Pretlow’s research suggests that substance dependence (addiction), involving highly pleasurable foods (‘problem foods’) is a ‘significant cause of the obesity epidemic, if not the overriding cause.’
‘Thus, obesity treatment should use addiction medicine approaches, a key part of which are anonymous social networks that offer support during withdrawal,’ according to Dr. Robert Pretlow, the release reported.
This article goes on to quote from Dr. Pretlow’s Abstract, which is available as a PDF file, on how social networking can be either a causitive factor for obesity, or an effective tool for fighting obesity. One of the pertinent passages is:
Social networks can facilitate breaking the addiction (problem food) cause of obesity. Group support helps the obese person tolerate withdrawal from problem foods and adds motivation to keep going. Re-addiction is prevented by socially learning to cope with life without turning to food.
The author goes on to say:
Dr. Pretlow advocated social networking online and via apps for smartphones and mobile devices, as an extremely useful new support group tool for obesity treatment, because it can be totally anonymous. This avoids the shame and embarrassment obese individuals feel so deeply. The useful online tools also include genuinely anonymous online forums consisting of bulletin boards, chat rooms, success stories, weight loss buddies, and tips, Dr. Pretlow indicated.
Another pilot study of the “W8 Loss 2 Go” iPhone app will begin next month and continue into the early fall. After analyzing the results, the next step may be to create two different versions of the app: one for consumers, without the buddy and mentor features, and a full version for healthcare groups, which have the resources to sponsor buddy systems and mentorship. Also, Dr. Pretlow says:
June 24th, I will present at the National Association of School Nurses, where I will offer free iPod Touches in limited numbers to schools interested in trying out either version of the app. The iPod Touch is nearly 1/10 the price of an iPhone, as no service contract is required, although it does require WiFi. Many schools now have WiFi. I’m hoping Apple may come out with a new version of the iPod Touch connected to AT&T’s 3G network, similar to the iPad.
Source: “Social Network Helps Kids Fight Fat Stigma-Free,” MedPage Today, 05/11/12
Source: “Smart Phone Apps & Social Networking Help Lose Weight, Evidence Suggests,” HelpingYouCare.com, 05/14/12