7 Ways to Not Be Fat

[cake decorated as American flag]

Happy July 4th! There’s no better way to say “Thanks!” to America than by doing a little something to end our obesity epidemic, starting with our own families. Here’s a collection of suggestions.

Reduce salt intake

An Australian study of 4,000 children found that the more salt they ate, the more sugary drinks they consumed. Cut down on the usual suspects like potato chips and fries, as well as less obvious harborers of sodium such as hot dogs, cold cuts, and cheese.

Replace the dishes

In Philadelphia, a study of first-graders showed that children going through the lunch line with big plates will serve themselves more food, amounting to twice as many calories, as the same children will dish out for themselves if provided with smaller plates.

Cornell University researchers make this suggestion:

Change your dishware to better accommodate your dining needs. If your goal is to eat less, select plates that have high contrast with what you plan to serve for dinner. Want to eat more greens? Try serving them on a green plate!

Other scientists are proponents of the red plate. Why?

The color red elicits avoidance motivation across contexts…. red functions as a subtle stop signal that works outside of focused awareness and thereby reduces incidental food and drink intake…. In line with our hypothesis, participants drank less from a red labeled cup than from a blue labeled cup, and ate less snack food from a red plate than from a blue or white plate.

Watch your language

Forget about the old “clean your plate” concept and concentrate on helping kids learn to take smaller portions and to be aware of when they’ve had enough. Remember that food shouldn’t be used as a reward, pacifier, or bribe. When discussing  the importance of good everyday habits with kids, frame it as a way of being healthy, not as the road to looking a certain way.

Be the change you want to see

One of the very most important things a parent can do is set a good example. The power of example is much stronger than any words. Find activities the family can do together — bike, hike, swim, walk — and encourage kids to explore the possibilities until they find a sport or activity that gets them joyously moving.

Live in an affluent neighborhood

For most of us, file this under “long-term goal.” University of Washington researchers found that neighborhood property values predict local obesity rates better than income or education. Data collected in Seattle showed that fancy real estate implies about a 5% obesity rate, while impoverished neighborhoods have an obesity rate around 30%.

Back a winning team

French researchers studied Americans living in cities with National Football League teams, and found that we consume more saturated fat and more total calories on the day after a home team loss. Never mind football, this simple tip can help for July 4: “Make chili with ground turkey or substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream and queso in dips.”

Don’t drown in remorse

And if the holiday celebration gets out of hand, don’t stress about it, recommends the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. But do make it a high priority to form — and stick to — good eating habits as part of the everyday routine.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood Obesity: Kids Crave Salt and Sugary Drinks,” ClevelandClinic.org, 03/12/13
Source: “A Simple Way to Fight Childhood Obesity,” TheSportDigest.com, 04/12/13
Source: “What’s With the Color of Your Plate?” Cornell.edu, 2012
Source: “Want to eat less snack food? Use a red plate,” DiscoverMagazine.com, 09/16/13
Source: “Tips to Combat Childhood Obesity,” TheCellGym.com, 04/20/13
Source: “ZIP Codes And Property Values Predict Obesity Rates,” ScienceDaily.com, 08/30/07
Source: “Study: NFL Fans Binge Eat if Team Loses,” NBCNews.com, 01/31/14
Source: “Rules of thumb: Three simple ideas for overcoming childhood obesity,” ScienceDaily.com, 05/01/14

Image by lizwest

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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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