Childhood Obesity News has been following the development course of Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone app, whose approach is based on the addiction-treatment model of withdrawal and abstinence from problem foods and large food amounts.
In 2011, this promising approach, which goes beyond the familiar dual dictates of healthy eating and exercise, was introduced by Dr. Pretlow at the “Ending Childhood Obesity in a Generation” symposium, a component of the National Conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The concept, less an intervention than a self-empowerment method, originated from viewing the childhood obesity epidemic through the psychological food dependence/addiction lens. Dr. Pretlow said at the time:
Breaking food dependence necessitates that they go through withdrawal (abstain) from each problem food, one at a time, similar to coming off cigarettes or a drug. Withdrawal symptoms, e.g. intense cravings and irritability, typically subside in 2-3 weeks. In parallel with withdrawal from problem foods, obese children must learn to cope with unpleasant emotions, such as sadness, stress, and boredom, without turning to pleasurable foods for relief (comfort eating), the basis of food addiction.
This coping includes new skills for handling negative emotions. Stress management techniques can be learned, along with methods to neutralize cravings. Self-motivation can be strengthened, and self-esteem built. Focusing on problem foods, the program helps overweight kids unhook and maintain a healthy weight without getting re-hooked. With new coping skills in place, kids can escape becoming re-captured by the false comfort of food. Peer support is also important, obtained through the network of fellow users and the choosing of one particular weight-loss buddy. Professional mentoring is, of course, also part of the package.
In the same year, Dr. Pretlow gave a presentation titled “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic” at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.
Early in 2012, Dr. Pretlow took his ideas and preliminary results to the 19th European Congress on Obesity in Lyon, France. Soon afterward, favorable reports appeared in MedScape, on ABC News, and in other venues. In June, Dr. Pretlow addressed the National Association of School Nurses. In September, Childhood Obesity News was included in the list of “100 Essential Online Public Health Resources” compiled by MasterofPublicHealth.org, a website for health professionals and other interested parties. In October, Dr. Pretlow was interviewed — along with Susan Levin of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Dr. S. Jay Olshansky — by Al Jazeera for a TV show called “The US Obesity Threat.” Here is a brief summary:
Dr. Pretlow is interviewed about the role of parents, for instance, the co-dependency that develops when a parent can’t figure out how to get affection in any other way, and buys it with large pizzas and sweet treats. He talks about the research he has done through the Weigh2Rock website, where children and teens reveal their secret struggles.
Of course, he outlines the case for recognizing food addiction as the major problem, and makes again the very important point that kids are not getting what they need. Nutritional education and advice about exercise are fine in their place, but the elephant in the room is the inability of kids to resist the harmful pseudo-foods with which they are surrounded. They experience cravings for highly palatable foods that are not only nutritionally bereft, but actively harmful. Their weight goes up and up, and what they need most is information and education on how to shake off those cravings.
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Source: “Dr. Pretlow in the News Again,” Childhood Obesity News, 10/15/12
Image by Weigh2Rock