How to Help Kids and Pets


A while back, we described the first two steps of W8Loss2Go as it pertains to both children and pets. We are still in Pet Obesity Awareness Month, so more discussion follows. The program begins with identifying the specific problem food or foods, and withdrawing from them one by one. Then, between-meal eating is eliminated. Ideally, the intake is now down to just regular meals composed of healthful, non-problem foods.

Next, the portion sizes of the regular meals are gradually decreased. A scale is very useful here because as a tangible, legitimate scientific instrument, it reminds the responsible parent that this whole enterprise is valid and beneficial. For the pet-parent or child-parent, the scale performs a wholesome psychological function. With a pre-made plan of how much will be doled out, and when, emotional factors have less opportunity to get in the way.

Moving on

The plan is described in a British Journal of Nutrition article written by Dr. Robert A. Pretlow (to whose work Childhood Obesity News is devoted) and Dr. Ronald J. Corbee, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University. In “Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model,” they mention that, in theory anyway, the access that pets have to food is more controllable than the access afforded to children, especially when those kids are old enough to go outside on their own. Relative to dealing with teenagers, it would seem that controlling the availability of unsuitable food to very young children should be easy.

But in real life the co-dependence of the child-parent or pet-parent is an issue. Because of the tangled psychology, adults are capable of rationalizing their actions in a hundred ways. In a grownup’s mind, there may be a perfectly good reason to fill the baby’s bottle with soda pop or give a bowl of ice cream to a dog that can hardly lift its own weight from the floor. The authors suggest that in addition to decreasing the portion sizes at meals, the parent might de-pleasurize foods whenever possible.

If foods are not as tasty, children and pets tend to eat less. For example, in children, if there is a particular problem with mashed potatoes, which typically are made with butter, cream and seasoning, they can be prepared as boiled potatoes with just seasoning. Increasing the fiber content and decreasing the fat content of pet food are ways to reduce energy consumption.

Dr. Pretlow and Corbee also warn that this part of the plan might not go over well:

Pets and children may be annoyed by this de-pleasurising and initially refuse the less tasty foods. Perseverance by the pet–parent and child–parent is key, if this theory holds true for pet eating behaviors.

A very old proverb says, “Begin as you wish to continue,” and obesity prevention is an area of life where the saying is elevated to the status of a commandment. Numerous studies have shown that the earlier obesity sets in, the harder it is to reverse. Babies and pets really shouldn’t be allowed to develop an expectation that everything they every put in their mouths will be hyperpalatable.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model,”, 06/17/16
Photo credit: Lisa Cyr via Visualhunt/CC BY

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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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