Reply from a British Mum

About Gluttony

Because all of Dr. Pretlow’s time is spent working hard on a program to guide millions of children out of the prison of obesity, he is not able to respond to every individual. A recent letter, a true cri de coeur from an English mother at her wits’ end, is a classic example of the pain felt by exasperated parents everywhere. It included so many specifically addressable points that Dr. Pretlow was inspired to create a document comprehensive enough to serve as a universal reply to parents who desperately want to help their kids, but who just don’t know where to start or how to proceed from there.

Along with this very detailed list of suggestions, Dr. Pretlow referred the British mum to an instruction manual he authored, at the same time making Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People available to all as a PDF download. (You’re welcome!!!)

This was only a short time ago, and of course the British mum has not had a chance yet to put into effect many of the recommended changes, or to get much practice at doing things in new ways. Sometimes, problems seem so overwhelming that a person just doesn’t know where to start, and there is not even a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel. Despair moved this lady to express herself further, and the rest of the words in this post (except at the very end) are hers.


Things are even worse with my daughter’s eating—I do not know what is going to happen with her. I do find it hard with the manipulating as she makes a real fuss and gets nasty if I say she can’t have stuff. That said, I do not give in very often. The thing is, I do have to have some food in the house, and she will do stuff like mixing flour, butter, sugar or sweetener and raisins to make cookie dough and eat it, or this morning at 5 AM she was making pancakes with eggs, milk, manuka honey (which I keep in for my arthritis), and some gluten free flour which I had bought for a coeliac friend.

This afternoon she went out with her father and he bought her quinoa, craisins, goldenberries, kale and then a giant pepperoni pizza. As soon as he went home she cooked and ate the whole pizza. I told her not to, but she did. I am sometimes afraid to say no to her because she will cut herself (she has self-harmed for some years now).

You would think that this all must stem from some trauma, but I honestly don’t think that there has been anything. Her father and I divorced when she was little, and she hasn’t dealt well with it. She is very jealous of his new partner—hates her—and when her father said that they were going to get married, she cut her arms really badly. We have seen several psychotherapists and they have all said that she is very strong-willed and that she doesn’t have clinical depression, and that the self-harming is seeking attention.

Her last blood work showed an underactive thyroid, so she has to go for another blood test next week. The doctors we have seen say that her eating is essentially a lifestyle choice and that unless she wants to lose weight then they can’t (or won’t) help. We live in the UK and it is very different trying to access help over here. I wanted to send her to a weight loss camp but they are prohibitively expensive and my health authority refuse to pay. (They will pay for weight loss surgery though, which is ridiculous.)

I worry because she is so unfit and immobile. The slightest effort makes her breathless and sweaty, and she has almost no clothes which fit her. She never goes out unless her father, elder sister or I take her in the car. She won’t go to school and says that it is because the stairs are too difficult for her. It breaks my heart.

After her pizza tonight she was so full that she became drowsy and went up to bed and is now asleep. Tough love is hard, especially with the “self harm” threat which hangs over things all the time. She is so stubborn. If I say things like “If you don’t stop this I will take your laptop/phone/etc.,” she counters with “How about this? If you take my phone/TV/whatever, then I will eat and eat and eat,” or do whatever I don’t want her to do, “until you give them back to me.” So it becomes a Mexican standoff.


Dr. Pretlow comments:

Like all addicts, the daughter has to reach rock bottom. Until then, it is indeed a stalemate.

Such histories of long-standing and seemingly intractable problems point urgently at the need to start young, before behaviors can become entrenched. Childhood obesity is an area of life where the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” should be carved in stone over the doorway. Once more, we encourage readers to take advantage of the availability of Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Celestine Chua


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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.

Food & Health Resources