Disparate Strands Pulled Together

chocolate makes everything better

To recapitulate: American historical figure Horace Fletcher preached the chewing of food into a state of liquefaction, as an aid to digestion and general well-being. Though he was for a time discredited, recent science has shown that there are indeed nutritional and calorie-reduction benefits to be gained from this practice.

The junk-food industry is well aware of how avidly consumers love to chew. Childhood Obesity News mentioned the time when suddenly, breakfast cereal and candy both grew way crunchier. By a strange coincidence, these are two of the food categories that a struggler against obesity most often places at the head of the “problem food” list.

Other well-known chewing enthusiasts are kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. And long-distance drivers. The motions of chewing and swallowing, in themselves, constitute sort of an interior self-massage of the head. The somatic and mental results are perceived by the individual as benefits.

In some cases, as happy fletcherizers attested, this is fine. There is nothing wrong with compulsive chewing when the components being chewed are fresh, healthful vegetables, fruits, the good kind of fat, and so forth. The person obtains both physical and mental rewards.


The human ability to derive satisfaction from handling, nibbling, tonguing, chewing, and swallowing food has a dark side. When the person’s dietary intake consists of processed, additive-laden pseudo-foods with generous servings of sugar, salt, bad fat, and unpronounceable chemicals, no amount of chewing is healthy.

The habit has now become a Body-Focused Repetitive Behavior (BFRB). Even though it provides temporary joy to the taste buds and relief to the over-stressed nervous system, it is an undesirable behavior because it signals food addiction. As with any other kind of addiction, the only ultimate and sustainable cure is to clear up the emotional difficulty that renders a person hookable.

Meanwhile, it is possible to stop the mindless robot-like intake of food by using techniques that have been proven to work on BFRBs. Currently, Australian youth are trying out Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone application.

First, they identify their problem foods and withdraw from them one by one. One technique here is to block a craving by pairing the problem food with an aversive (gross) photo or video. Another is to detour the brain from the craving track, and reset it through meditative contemplation of video “white noise.”

Children and teens need guidance in developing the skills for stress management and general coping with the trials of life. Snacking and grazing are displacement behaviors, and require intervention, in the form of techniques borrowed from therapy modalities that deal with BFRBs. These include trigger avoidance, abstinence intervals, and neutralizing nervous energy. With the caveat that a high level of motivation is needed from the participants, Dr. Pretlow says:

They used body-focused repetitive behavior techniques such as snapping a rubber band against their wrist when they had an urge to snack, and they would whiff a foul odor to extinguish an urge to snack in the moment…

This is what Dr. Pretlow’s smartphone app project is all about, the idea that food addiction can be and often is driven by two entities — helpless dependency on the substance itself, and dependency on the relief gained from a displacement behavior which mainly consists of chewing, and is known as compulsive overeating.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Compulsive Eating/Addiction Intervention for Obesity Implemented as a Smartphone App: A Pilot Study,” Weigh2Rock.com
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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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