Over on the right-hand side of the page, under the heading of Presentations, there is a link to the presentation given by Dr. Pretlow at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity. It concerns the first trial of the iPhone W8Loss2Go application, and if you want to jump right into it, the description of the app begins at Slide 20.
Dr. Pretlow makes a point that should be obvious, yet is often overlooked by proponents of diet-and-exercise as the one and only answer to obesity. If it’s that simple, wouldn’t all the overweight people simply eat less, eat better quality food, exercise more, and get skinny? The insistence on diet-and-exercise as the only answer is characterized by Dr. Pretlow as “paradigm paralysis.”
Actually, there are at least a couple of other things going on, and one of them starts very early. Hospital staff members use sugar to distract babies’ attention during unpleasant procedures. Children learn at a young age that sweets alleviate pain and bring comfort.
Sweetness isn’t the only quality of food that delights the senses. Other tastes are also very attractive, and temperature and texture add to the irresistible nature of some foods. A sensory addiction can develop, and the relationship to food can become identical to, and indistinguishable from, hard drug dependency.
People are different
It isn’t every food, and not everyone reacts in the same way to potato chips or cheese. But Dr. Pretlow learned from the thousands of responses to polls conducted via his Weigh2Rock website that every obese kid has certain problem foods.
The W8Loss2Go app starts simple — by telling a kid how to identify a problem food. Sometimes people don’t realize these things, even when the truth is staring them in the face. For instance, a teenager who steals to support his chocolate-covered bacon habit might not even recognize that as a red flag. Sometimes it needs to be pointed out. More subtle signs are even more difficult to recognize. If you dream about potato chips, that probably indicates a reason for concern.
And then there is stress, and the tendency of some people to respond to it by eating. Sometimes they graze all day; sometimes they binge. There are hormonal explanations for stress eating, but Dr. Pretlow is not on board. He finds the cause in displacement behavior. In humans, this manifests in many different ways. A man might constantly tug on his chin whiskers, much to the exasperation of those around him who are irritated by this habit. But it discharges nervous tension, and thus is beneficial to the beard-botherer.
Reason for hope
Once the brain realizes that a tic eases stress, it produces chemical changes to perpetuate the behavior, and when eating is concerned, the activity can become compulsive. The very act of consuming food then qualifies as a Body Focused Repetitive Behavior, or BFRB. This actually brings hope because, as Dr. Pretlow explains, techniques already exist for dealing with BFRBs.
Slide 19 enumerates some of them, including with the avoidance of triggers that set off the anxiety in the first place. Nervous energy can be vented in other ways, such as vigorous exercise, useful here not so much for its calorie-burning potential but for the fact that most exercise is difficult to do while eating. (The hazard of course is that the person who is dutifully working out might feel entitled to swig down a bottle of “sports drink” that contains several days’ ration of sugar.)
The second study of the W8Loss2Go iPhone app was launched June 8 and is currently underway.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “2013 European Congress on Obesity,” Childhood Obesity News