Behind the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Chocolate-Covered Bacon

Childhood Obesity News discussed the publication of Mrs. Obama’s book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America, which received a lot of publicity when it first became available, and continues to do so. Just a couple of weeks ago, the First Lady was a guest on a TV show called “The View,” an appearance reported by Joanne Eglash:

When it comes to getting her hands dirty, Michelle Obama emphasizes the dietary benefits of gardening. She first came up with the concept of using gardening as a healthy political platform when trying to figure out a way to battle the childhood obesity epidemic, she explained. The result: taking her message to the public by launching the Let’s Move initiative to seek healthier lifestyles…

On one level, the advantages of a nutritious diet are so obvious as to not require discussion, it’s just stipulated. At fancy, costly weight-loss establishments, teenagers grow fruits, vegetables, and condiments. They learn about how to grow organic, and how to prepare foods for the highest nutritional payoff. It makes perfect sense to give public school students the opportunity to practice the same skills.

Since gardening is one way to attain a maximum nutrition level, it deserves an honored place in any anti-childhood obesity campaign. The point that a lot of people are missing is, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how much virtuously healthful food is available. Sometimes, a person is just plain addicted to the wrong kinds of foods. A person in this condition will walk a mile for a hit of chocolate-covered bacon, rather than consider eating the celery that’s already in the refrigerator.

The National Poll of Children’s Health, a recent research effort carried out by the University of Michigan, ascertained the issues that grownups are most concerned about in regard to kids’ health. They go around asking adults for their opinion on what the most serious children’s health problem is.

Seriously, does it matter? The answers are about as meaningful as a pop-culture magazine poll about which actress looks better in a particular dress. It may be sociology, but it’s not hard science. Anyway, here are the most serious worries, according to adults:

1. Lack of exercise
2. Childhood obesity
3. Smoking and tobacco use
4. Drug abuse
5. Bullying
6. Stress
7. Alcohol abuse
8. Teen pregnancy
9. Internet safety
10. Child abuse and neglect

But… Childhood obesity, smoking and tobacco use, and drug abuse are all the same problem, and it’s called being hooked. Sure, some obese kids are not technically addicts. Some users of tobacco and various drugs are not addicts, either. But the serious, life-threatening manifestations of those conditions all grow from the same root. When the childhood obesity epidemic is regarded through the psychological food dependence-addiction lens, one addiction looks pretty much like another.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “First Lady Michelle Obama dishes on diet and digging gardening on ‘The View,’”, 08/14/12
Source: “Top 10 child health concerns,”, 08/20/12
Image by Magic Glasses (Kris Kasawski).

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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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