Overweight/Obesity as the New Normal

Rebecca Lowe Models

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” That saying has been around since before the year 1500. Such proverbs live so long in the human consciousness because they are adaptable to many situations. For instance, a paraphrase could be, “In the land of 300-pound humans, the 200-pounder is a runway model.”

When 12- and 14-pound babies are popping out all over the place, 8-pound babies start looking premature and malnourished. On a playground full of tubby 6th-graders, who can blame parents for not realizing that their own moderately large child is actually overweight? Next to all the other kids who are even bigger, their daughter or son is skinny by comparison.

Last time, Childhood Obesity News  quoted Cleveland Clinic Wellness Manager Kristin Kirkpatrick, who says that the first step in dealing with childhood obesity is for parents to recognize the problem; few actually do. Obesity expert Neville Rigby asks:

As the majority of the population has grown fatter, any sense of normality seems to have disappeared. Is overweight/obese the ‘new normal’ for Americans along with a resigned acceptance of type 2 diabetes as an inevitable rather than avoidable consequence?

Speaking of Type 2 diabetes, one of the most prevalent consequences of obesity, the American Heart Association now estimates the country’s yearly total of weight-related medical expenses to be $190 billion, and yes, that’s billion with a B.

Very recently, JAMA Internal Medicine published a research letter by Dr. Graham A. Colditz and Lin Yang of the Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri. They have determined that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese,  and they say:

Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environment interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required.

Incidentally, “population-based” seems to be one of those jargon expressions that can be tossed into a text as indiscriminately as pepper on a salad. Risk.com puts it like this:

The term population-based is traditionally used to describe a study that involved a defined “general population,” as opposed to hospital-based or occupation-based populations. Epidemiologic studies have a tacit need to be based in populations, and as such, most epidemiologic studies can be loosely considered as population-based… Readers of epidemiologic literature should be aware that several terms are used idiosyncratically by epidemiologists…The use of the term population-based is a misnomer.

In other words, it means either nothing, or whatever the authors of a given paper decide that it means. At any rate, diving into the finer points of terminology will not change the ever more lumpy and misshapen landscape of a country populated by adults, teenagers, and children whose body expansion is out of control. Dr. Donna H. Ryan of Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center is disappointed that people feel a need to ascribe stereotypical and negative traits to the obese. She says:

It’s a lot like alcohol and drug addiction. Our society is more accepting of these conditions as a disease and less so for obesity.

And, speaking of addiction, in his book The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler told of research in a major American city that showed 50 percent of the obese adults to be food addicted, as well as 30 percent of the overweight adults. Also, of the normal weight adults, 20 percent were food addicted but it just hadn’t manifested as obesity or visibly caught up with them yet.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Over two-thirds of Americans estimated to be overweight, obese,” MedicalNewsToday.com, 06/23/15
Source: “Health Risk Science – Population-based studies,” risk.com.org, undated
Image by Glenn Scofield Williams

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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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