Celebrity Motivation and Obesity

Adam Ray

When interviewed by Alison Rosen, actor and comedian Adam Ray revealed that he had been “a big kid … not just chubby … pretty fat.” He added, “Fat kids know the true meaning of ‘seconds.’ ‘Cause guess what, that second plate? There’s maybe seconds and thirds on that second plate.”

Though big, he was active and agile, and in sixth grade a friend called him Quickfat, which he didn’t really mind. But others friends, and even family members, were less moderate in their speech. Ray reminisces:

One kid would call me Jello Jiggler. That was the quickest way to make me cry at home by myself…. I didn’t even know I was fat until kids would make fun of me. I was very happy…. I’d go to a friend’s house, and a parent would make a comment. “You sure you need more pizza?” My grandpa would say that stuff to me too.

Looking back, he traces the origin of his obesity to his parents’ divorce when, as Rosen suggests, “You ate your feelings.” He also pinpoints the event that motivated change in his young life:

Before my bar mitzvah, my mom’s like, “You know, you can’t wear sweat pants on the bimah while you’re reading from the Torah,” and I was like, “That’s what you think.” But then she’s like, “You gotta wear a suit.” So I just stopped eating crap.

That last remark is reminiscent of the words of actor and comedian Tom Arnold, who recently told reporter Lisa Flam, “I stopped eating like a jerk.” He grew up in a farming community and worked at McDonald’s, and in his social circle, eating was treated “like a competition.” It is still true in many places that the ability and willingness to overeat is seen as a desirable trait that signifies masculinity, and this is one of the many cultural changes that will have to evolve if America is ever to escape the obesity epidemic.

After Arnold went into show business, there was a period when he had to keep careful track of his two shirts, making sure that one was always clean for the next performance. Why would a TV star not just go buy some more shirts? Because trying on clothes was too psychologically traumatizing.

The turnaround

Arnold topped out at 300 pounds and so far has shed 90. The first substances he quit were bread and sugar, and he specifies that this is not a diet, but a lifestyle change. His motivation may not be useful to Dr. Pretlow’s constituency, because he is doing it for the sake of his newborn son, who deserves to grow up with a father.

However, if the darkness of that thought were not too much to lay on kids, a sort of opposite motivation might urge teenagers to deal with their obesity. We have all heard that the generation of kids caught in the obesity epidemic may not, on average, live as long as their parents’ generation. And even sadder things could happen. If the epidemic doesn’t lose momentum soon, we will be seeing more and more parents mourning the early deaths of their offspring, a turn of events that nature never intended.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Alison Rosen is Your New Best Friend #237,” AlisonRosen.com, 12/22/13
Source: “Tom Arnold on dropping 90 pounds: ‘I stopped eating like a jerk,’ ” Today.com, 01/10/14
Image by AdamRayTV.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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