Measuring for Improvement


Childhood Obesity News has been looking at the importance of weighing food portions as part of the W8Loss2Go program. Today, Dr. Pretlow takes us back to the time when the importance of this step really began to impress itself upon him:

Six years ago, kids on the Weigh2Rock website were reporting that they had a problem with certain foods, e.g. soda, chips, pizza, candy. They had cravings for these foods, difficulty resisting the food when in front of them, and difficulty not overeating it. Thus, initially our app intervention involved only withdrawal/abstinence from user-identified problem foods. That method worked very well with the kids in our study, and after 10 days they were amazed that they no longer craved their problem foods or had trouble resisting them.

For the uninitiated, Weigh2Rock is the website about healthy weight, whose many sections include areas for pre-teens, teens, the over-18 crowd, and parents. There you will find an incredible amount of content, and endless opportunities for interactivity. The Success Stories anthology alone provides hours of satisfying reading.

Back to abstinence from problem foods, and the disappearance of cravings for them:

Yet, they didn’t lose much weight from that process. We then realized that the main issue contributing to their weight was eating excessive amounts at meals. So, we implemented the “cutting in half” method, where they would cut in half everything they ate at meals and put half back. Or, they would cut the half in half and put 1/4 back. Unfortunately, participants had great difficulty deciding how much to cut off and put back and even how much to serve themselves to start with.

Our basic human nature is to delude ourselves about a lot of things. When doctors ask patients about their alcohol use, the assumption of a certain amount of under-reporting is built in. A few years back, a British study showed that if self-reported drinking information is accurate, about half the alcohol sold in England is being poured directly into gutters and drains, because otherwise its whereabouts cannot be accounted for.

Probably, the patients are not even aware of speaking untruths to their doctors. They are telling it like they see it. And probably a 12-year-old who takes a serving of food, knowing that he is supposed to put back 50%, is not even aware of piling on twice as much food in preparation for that halving. As one of the WeightLoss2Go study participants said, “Numbers can’t lie, but my brain can.”

Meanwhile, Peter Drucker, “the man who invented modern business management,” was publishing books that said things like, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” This has even been characterized as of the two most important quotations in business. In fact, the writer who called it that employs a familiar metaphor:

For example, it’s nearly impossible to lose weight without stepping on a scale once in a while to measure your results — if you don’t, you have no idea if you are succeeding or not.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Alcohol consumption higher than reported in England,”, 02/27/13
Source: “The Two Most Important Quotes In Business,”, 02/25/17
Image by W8Loss2Go

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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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