Sons of Obesity—Motivation for Grownups

kurt sutterFor Rolling Stone, Erik Hedegaard wrote a profile of the guy who invented “Sons of Anarchy,” beginning with this sentence:

The most important thing to know about Kurt Sutter is that he once weighed 400 pounds.

Sutter is the creative genius behind the immensely popular and extremely gory biker-gang series that ran for seven years on the FX network. He wrote a lot of the episodes, directed some of them, and produced the entire oeuvre. But what about childhood?

In a family that outwardly appeared to be intact, Sutter grew up in a separate universe from two older sisters. In the boy’s chubby physique and apathy toward sports, their uninvolved father found further justification for his remoteness and lack of empathy. As a boy, Sutter’s only emotional connection was with his mother, and when she started down the road to full-blown alcoholism, he responded by overeating even more. The journalist captured these illuminating words from the “rock-star showrunner” who spent his youth sequestered with a TV set:

I’ve been self-medicating since I came out of the womb…Food was my first drug of choice. By the time I was a teenager, I weighed 400 pounds…I spent a lot of time in that basement. I could go down there and escape and be whatever I wanted to be. I had a huge fantasy life. It always involved vengeance. I was really angry…I didn’t really have a girlfriend…you can crush them to death.

In the interview, Sutter also expressed that last sentiment in words more crude and raw. He was hit hard by the realization that a 400-pound dude would probably never have a relationship involving either the heart or any other organs. So, he told Hedegaard:

That’s when I flipped the switch on the food addiction and swapped it out.

Here is where a parent might think, “Aha! All I have to do is simply remind my son that he will never get a girlfriend, and that will put his head on straight.” Such an assumption would be quite wrong and abysmally counterproductive. Even a very young child has an innate sense of privacy and decorum when it comes to matters of the heart. Teasing a boy about having a girlfriend or not having a girlfriend is tasteless and inappropriate coming from a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or any other relative, and can lead to unforeseen consequences.

This kind of thing is even more toxic for a little girl, who is not well-served by growing up with the expectation that the most she can hope for out of life is a man who will take care of her if she bends over backward to please him.

And teenagers? Forget it. A typical adolescent does not want any input of any kind, from any parent, at any time, in any way, shape, or form, regarding her or his choice of love object. Even if a teenager opens the dialogue about dating prospects, the wise mom or dad will access those “active listening” and “I-message” skills learned in Parent Effectiveness Training and put them to use. To go any farther is to tread on thin ice.

Proceed With Caution

As far as the correlation between obesity and undateable-ness, teens certainly do not need grownups to connect the dots. When fat has gone too far, the message can rarely be heard coming from the outside. It depends on inner realization, which in Karl Sutter’s case is apparently what occurred. He wanted to be a normal, sexually active male, and unless the flab was banished, that was never going to happen. In college he discovered exercise (universally endorsed) and an illegal drug that promotes activity and weight loss (endorsed by no one.)

In less than a year, half his body disappeared, and loose skin was removed by an unspecified number of surgical procedures. He has remained under 200 pounds for 20 years now (aided, we hope, by good habits rather than dangerous chemicals). Over the course of a very eventful life, he destroyed all pictorial evidence of the fat years. But the shadow is always there. One last quotation:

I did not get filled as a kid. I am forever hungry.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Original Son of Anarchy, 09/29/14
Image by Gage Skidmore

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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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