Obesity’s Puzzling Questions

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Can a mother make her child morbidly obese? Mothers are easily blamed for anything, rightly or wrongly, for reasons that seem obvious to those who do it.

Childhood Obesity News related the tragic story of morbidly obese Texan Hector Garcia, who died last month at age 49. San Antonio Express-News staffers Jessica Belasco and photographer Lisa Krantz had been shadowing him for 4 years, and their recent story included this information about a typical day in 2013:

His mother brought him food and took away the empty plates. For breakfast, it was two slices of toast, two eggs and bacon. For lunch, he ate what his parents ate: enchiladas, vermicelli, beans, hot dogs, hamburgers. For dinner, his mother … often brought him a box of 20 Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s or other fast food he requested.

Not only mothers, but fathers, husbands, wives, and other caregivers seem like easy targets for blame whenever a story like this is publicized. An immobilized person who cannot move from the room somehow obtains endless amounts of food. Who can help noticing that there is only one channel? If the caregiver didn’t let the food in, it wouldn’t get in. Or at least, that is a conclusion many easily reach.

On the other hand, nobody can stay home every minute to stand guard over a situation. Caregivers have medical appointments of their own to attend, just like anyone else, and church, and shopping. They have other relatives and friends. They have emotional needs. The reporter asked Hector Garcia’s mother why she acquiesced to his fast food demands.

“They were the wrong things, but I would give in because I was so tired,” Elena said. If she tried to refuse his requests for food, her son would get angry.

Nobody likes to be yelled at or cold-shouldered, especially over something as stupid as chicken nuggets. And of course this is America. Since Hector Garcia was well over 21, that puts the ball back in his court. When a person has income from disability insurance, or from working at a home-based, telecommuting type of job, as he did, the paycheck can be spent in any legal way.

That includes sending out for pizza, and whether or not Garcia ever did, he would certainly be within his rights. In defense of his mom or any other caregivers, it could be argued that a reasonable person would see the economic sense in bringing home what her son wants — as long as he is going to get it anyway — rather than let him throw money away on delivery charges and tips. Married at age 14, Mrs. Garcia may have become sensitive to such unnecessary expenditures over the years, as she raised six children on very little money. The story notes:

His mother had to learn how to make food stretch, and the family ate the cheapest food available: Beans, rice, vermicelli, Kool-Aid, food cooked with lard … “I didn’t know anything about nutrition,” Elena said. If someone offered her a salad, she’d say she wasn’t a rabbit.

But that was years ago. Surely, by 2013, and with a 600-pound son, this particular mother had encountered opportunities to learn more about nutrition. To wrap up on a more optimistic note, there are many things that the modern parents of a young child or children can do to ensure against a future marred by crippling obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity,” expressnews.com, 12/27/14
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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.
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Presentations

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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