Good Ideas for Parents

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Happy holidays! It’s a tough time of year for people who struggle with food addiction and obesity. Here are some assorted suggestions from many sources. No single one will keep your child from becoming obese or solve her or his existing problem. But every little step counts. Here are five general precepts compiled by Danielle Longhurst for Deseret Digital Media:

  • The choice cannot be if children are going to be active; it must be how
  • Parents must set the example
  • Have unscheduled family time? Get outside!
  • Walk/run/scooter/bike whenever possible
  • Explore new fitness options and set goals
  • Detroit’s Beaumont Hospital offers a tidy list of 13 hints for parents. Some are duplicates – the advice for parents to set the example, for instance, can never grow stale or be repeated too often – and they stress the importance of yearly checkups. Another of their important hints is not to use food as either a reward or a punishment. With this, Dr. Pretlow is in absolute agreement, saying:

    Obesity appears to result from eating for reasons other than hunger, for simple pleasure and as a coping mechanism for relief from sadness, stress, anxiety, and boredom. Parents enable this in their kids by using food to ease distress from an early age (“Give him a bottle if he cries”) and as treats to give and buy love from the child (Cool Whip commercial slogan – “Give the Cool Whip, get the love”).

    Childhood Obesity News has passed along hints from registered dietician Maryann Jacobsen before, and here is another one: educate yourself to understand the role of normal development in a child’s eating habits. For instance, toddlers of a certain age are very fond of saying “No,” and there is not much a parent can do except wait it out. Adolescence brings a whole different set of challenges. While it may be tempting to force a kid to eat one thing or another, Jacobsen explains why this is counterproductive, in a piece titled “What Forcing Kids to Eat Looks Like 20 Years Later.”She also advises parents to serve food with a confident and expectant attitude, as if you are certain the child will try some. No matter what you do, don’t fling around labels like “picky eater” because this will only reinforce the food-refusing behavior that you want to discourage.

    Time Is of the Essence

    This idea has been suggested before, but the Salk Institute recently did some research that seems to confirm the importance of eating at certain times and, more crucially, of not eating at other times. The study subjects mice, not humans, but hopes are high that, as in many other laboratory results, rodents and people share the basic mechanism. If a mouse’s food consumption is limited to a window of between 9 and 12 hours, that mouse will be slimmer than its counterpart who is allowed to snack at any point in the day or night – even if they take in the same number of calories. But here is the big news, as expressed by Dr. Andrew Weil:

    The research has also shown that allowing the mice to eat only during a specified eight-hour period reversed obesity and diabetes.

    Yes, that word is “reversed.” Needless to say, this line of inquiry seems well worth pursuing. And you don’t need a laboratory to do it. Try it out at home, on yourself and your kids, and please let Childhood Obesity News know the results!

    Your responses and feedback are welcome!

    Source: “5 ways to cure your little couch potatoes,”, 12/04/14
    Source: “13 Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity,”, 09/02/14
    Source: “15 of the All-Time Best Strategies for Raising Healthy Eaters,”, 02/07/14
    Source: “When You Eat May Matter More than What You Eat,”, 12/11/14
    Image by Mike McCune

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    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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