Who Has It Worse?

Tibetan Kids playing among 108 carved Mani Stones, Kathmandu, Nepal.

By asking young people directly, via the Weigh2Rock website, Dr. Pretlow has learned that most children and teenagers in America are well supplied with information about what constitutes a healthful diet. The school system seems to do a pretty good job with that, and of course since the Internet has become part of just about every person’s life, a plethora of information is available online. Television presents not just entertainment and advertising, but also, occasionally, documentaries full of solid facts about the results of eating the wrong stuff.

Rather than more of the same kind of information about calories and vitamins, what kids desperately need is knowledge about how to kick the wrong stuff out of their lives; in other words, how to resist cravings. Where can they learn this? Take a look around: How many adults know how to resist cravings? Going by the evidence, not many.

Observing this from one angle, it could be said that adults are subject to much more temptation than kids are. By and large, adults have money, transportation, and plenty of opportunity to make bad choices. Legally, they can fatten themselves up not only with food, but with alcoholic beverages, which are renowned for their empty calories.

For a bodybuilding website, David Robson listed the five major reasons to avoid alcohol, if excess weight is an issue. Briefly summarized, alcohol:

Supplies almost twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates
Loosens the inhibitions
Can damage the stomach, kidneys, and liver
Lowers testosterone
Increases appetite

Of course, the page includes detailed explanations of why each characteristic of alcohol can contribute to overweight and obesity.

The point is, grownups have all that to contend with, in addition to their ability to afford and procure hedonic foodstuffs. The freedoms and opportunities that come with adulthood have been the downfall of many adults.

But mobility and money are also that same factors that give grownups the advantage. Many grownups are totally equipped to make the choice to shop at stores that specialize in nutritional awareness. An adult can join a gym and even hire a personal trainer.

It used to be that fitness just sort of automatically came along with youth, and people only had to start worrying about weight control as they grew older. But with every passing year that becomes less true. The many temptations of modern life conspire to take away the natural advantage of youth.

Sure, teenagers can do a lot of physical activity, and can, of course, often exercise a lot of choice over what they eat. But for many teens, by the time they are equipped to make use of their wider choices, the habits that promote food addiction are already quite firmly established.

Teenagers who had normal-weight childhoods often let themselves slide into unhealthy dependency on food. They get out of shape, and then discover the sad reality that it is very much easier to stay fit than to become fit. To break a bad habit is much more difficult than to avoid starting that habit in the first place, which a lot of adolescents don’t realize until bad habits are deeply entrenched.

Between teenagers and adults, it is hard to say whose path is more laden with challenges. But the child demographic definitely faces the worst obstacles. Kids pretty much have to eat what is given to them. Kids can’t make healthy choices if those healthy choices are not even available in their limited world.

Unfortunately, when kids do have some say over what they eat, the results are seldom good. A child who wants a box of cereal with a cartoon character on the package can be pretty persuasive.

On the other hand, children are often susceptible to influence, which is why it is so important to supply the guidance they need and deserve. They require the right kind of support, which often includes a need for their responsible grownups to, among many other things, say no to the cartoon-branded cereal.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “5 Ways Alcohol Hinders Fat Loss!,” Bodybuilding.com, 03/27/16
Image by Wonderlane

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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.

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