Children, Grownups, Stress, and Obesity (Part 4)

riding the turtle

As we know, almost anybody can go on a blitz diet, spend a summer at boot camp, or do any number of other things to quickly shed pounds. The problem is, the fat generally comes back. The short term and the long term are, in most cases, two very different propositions.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established to study “successful losers” who have achieved at least a 30-pound weight loss and then maintained it for at least a year. Any adult who has done this is invited to seek admittance to the study, and help researchers figure out what is going on. It would seem that these successful long-term maintainers have found ways to avoid using food to cope with depression, stress, boredom, and anxiety.

At a conference, Dr. Pretlow asked Dr. James Hill, one of the NWCR’s developers, whether he had any data on how the successful losers banish stress eating from their lives. Unfortunately, Dr. Hill said, “We don’t know how to ask those kinds of questions.”

The “Stress in America” surveys, commissioned annually by the American Psychological Association since 2007, have attempted to ask both adults and young people the right questions — at least about some aspects of experiencing stress, if not how to get rid of it.

The 2010 report highlighted how, as always, there are subjects where kids and their parents have vastly different opinions:

Only 43 percent of young people believe eating right is extremely or very important (versus 78 percent of parents); just 51 percent believe it’s important to be fit (versus 78 percent of parents who think it is extremely or very important for their child to be physically active or fit); and only 31 percent think it’s important to find activities away from the computer (versus 75 percent of parents).

In other words, three-quarters of parents are saying, “Get away from that computer,” and only about one-third of kids are considering the validity of that point of view. Just imagine how many family fights that sad discrepancy represents. But the real take-home from these surveys is, no matter what the difference of opinion, parents don’t seem to accomplish much through mere telling. Again and again, health professionals of every kind observe the bedrock truth that example is the best teacher.

Why do we grownups not set a better example? Well… because we are all too human. The “Stress in America” 2010 report went on to say:

Adults seem to understand the importance of healthy behaviors like managing their stress levels, eating right, getting enough sleep and exercise, but they report experiencing challenges practicing these healthy behaviors.

Challenges in practicing healthy behaviors! A polite way of phrasing it, and an understatement, if ever there was one! A survey question asked the responding adults whether, in the last month, they had overeaten, or eaten unhealthy foods, in response to stress — and two out of five said yes. This is not the kind of example we need to set.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Key Findings,”
Image by ben.fitzgerald (Ben Fitzgerald-O’Connor).

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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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