A Worrying Trend of Acceptance

In the light of subjects frequently discussed by Childhood Obesity News, this headline is irresistibly compelling: “Obesity among teens is on the rise, but are they willing to lose weight?” This came from a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, of American teens, who mostly hover between overweight and obese according to standard measuring methods.

More specifically, the researchers looked at overweight/obese kids in the age range of 16 to 19. Compared to the objective stats about weight gain, how much effort is really being made to lose pounds?

The data was drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and journalist Ijeoma C. Izundu explains,

The researchers found that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among teenagers has increased steadily in all the three stages (early, intermediate and recent period of weight gain) as the child grew. With the aid of a questionnaire, they recorded the changes in the weight of the participant over time in three categories: the early period with 1298 participants, the intermediate period with 2697 participants, and the most recent period with 1496 participants.

If data are available, researchers will use the information, so they also took into account differences in sex, economic status, and race. One thing the researchers discovered was that some teens are not even aware of the importance of keeping a normal weight.

This finding inspires skepticism. It would be comparable to hearing that most teens don’t know that unprotected sex leads to pregnancies and STDs — a proposition that would, in this day and age, be very difficult to defend.

It is highly unlikely that anyone in our society could remain oblivious to the fact that overweight and obesity are unhealthy conditions. However, it is quite possible that people lie to themselves, and construct elaborate defenses to avoid facing the truth. Self-deception is practiced by all humans, to a greater or lesser extent.

Even when adolescents realize that they are on the chubby side, many seem to be unconcerned. Kids are getting fat more, and caring about it less. Okay, on the positive side, this could be a good thing, if it prevents the kind of angst that leads to bulimia and other eating disorders. But on the whole, the trend is problematic. Why is it happening? Several guesses could be made.

The more people in the environment who are big, the more “right” bigness looks. This is already true of parents, of whom very large numbers are unable to perceive the obesity of their children. And in fact, the measurements of living humans actually change the concept of normalcy. The average height of the American male is 5’9″, but in the Civil War days, not so long ago, it was 5’8″.

Americans got used to people being taller, and we are getting used to them being thicker. As Izundu writes,

The researchers argued that this trend is worrisome because, as many adolescents become overweight or obese, obesity will become so common that it may be viewed as a normal trend in the society resulting in even fewer kids feeling motivated to lose weight… As these kids and teens get comfortable with their weight, obesity may become a new normal in society.

Overweight and obesity are in danger of becoming normalized, living out the fear that many professionals have expressed for years. Some grouches hold that kids are getting bigger because society allows it by coddling them. The hardliners would say, “Don’t build school desks bigger, don’t make clothes more capacious — it only encourages them.”

It is a tough-love approach and possibly even a cruel philosophy. But, undeniably, difficulty fitting into desks or clothes is an indicator that the person who doesn’t fit might possibly be dangerously obese.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity among teens is on the rise, but are they willing to lose weight?,” MedicalNewsBulletin.com, 09/02/18
Image by @TheMikeLawrence on Twitter

One Response

  1. Obese kids are an easy target in the classroom and are often teased and bullied, due to this the entire life they suffer from health low self-esteem, depression, and even gain more weight. The researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) claim that the stress of being teased might have stimulated the release of a stress hormone called cortisol, which could increase weight.

    Source – https://www.myhealthyclick.com/nih-study-says-being-teased-about-weight-is-associated-with-more-weight-gain-in-children/

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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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