Differences in Approach to Obesity

October 13, 2013 at 0536PM

Childhood Obesity News discussed the conversation between Michael Prager, whose field is personal sustainability, and research scientist Dr. Christopher Ochner. There are more issues that deserve attention. Dr. Ochner holds the very pragmatic view that human nature is constant. In terms of the obesity epidemic, this implies that people will continue to eat what they love. They will continue to gain weight, and regard obesity as an unfortunate but acceptable side effect of what he calls “the American diet.” He writes:

The trick is not cutting out the foods we love to eat, but finding a way to make the foods we love to eat better for us.

That is an audaciously optimistic ambition. But even if science someday makes potato chips as healthy as Brussels sprouts, in the United States alone we’ve got something like 12 million obese kids who are in trouble right now.

Michael Prager is optimistic in a different way, trusting people to discover and serve their own “raw self-interest.” He mentions food allergies and sensitivities, and anyone can think of examples of how people change to avoid suffering. A person with celiac disease comes to terms with dietetic limitation. A person with diabetes adapts to the food rules. Even vegans who refuse meat for reasons of conscience are acting in their own self-interest, because following one’s conscience is gratifying. In its own way, this philosophy is also practical. Prager says:

I think that ice cream and pizza and onion rings taste great, and do occasionally feel a twinge about not eating them. But briefly put, I have experienced my life with those dishes in it, and experienced life without them, and on balance, without is better.

My experience from having taken those measures…. has been a flowering of my life in ways I couldn’t conceive until I acknowledged my struggles sufficiently to go deep enough to find what worked…. But everyone seeking a solution needs to be willing to keep trying solutions until they get the results they want.

Prager did not want to be obese, so he made choices, like eliminating flour and sugar from his diet. The main thing is, he has maintained a significant weight loss for a meaningfully long time. Also, he does not believe himself to be some kind of exceptional human being. The logical conclusion that follows, and the assumption he makes, is that anyone can do the same — make the tough choices, and find life’s fulfillment in things other than food.

While Dr. Ochner seems pretty well convinced that people can’t or won’t change, Michael Prager believes we are able to change, and specifically that we are capable of getting over the childish idea that actions don’t have consequences. He writes:

A foundational part of my release from extreme obesity has been accepting otherwise, that as just another citizen of the planet, I will experience the obvious outcomes of my choices. If my choices aren’t taking me where I want to go, the answer is to make different choices. Given reasonable reasons to do so, practically anyone is capable of doing that.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The greatest flaw in nutritional dogma?” MichaelPrager.com, 06/19/14
Source: “I didn’t diet, and I don’t feel deprived,” MichaelPrager.com, 06/20/14
Image by Arya Ziai

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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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