Coming Up for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

For some time now, Childhood Obesity News has been collecting tips and hints for parents, and sorting them into major categories for upcoming posts, to commemorate Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Before embarking on that, let’s look at something has just come up.

Responsibility always seems to fall back on mothers, which is fair in a way. After all, moms, love to take credit for the wonderful things about their kids, and are fully entitled to do that. But, some would say, then it’s obligatory to accept a certain amount of blame, and this research supports the reasoning behind both points of view.

Interested readers will want to know that the subject pool was “relatively homogenous when it comes to socioeconomic status and educational attainment.” So no claims are made for how things work in other strata of society. Also, inevitably, the gathering of information involved a lot of self-reporting. On the other hand, the 16,945 nurses who took part were, through their professional training and experience, all aware of the importance of accuracy in medical record-keeping.

The researchers, from several universities, also looked at those nurses’ 24,289 children, between 9 and 14 years of age, and learned that adolescents were “75% less likely to be very overweight if their mothers practiced these five specific healthy habits.” An important feature is that followup reporting was done after around five years, and in the realm of obesity-related studies, that is a quite respectable length of time.

Of course, when mothers practice specific habits, children’s imitation is often the natural consequence. This is why Dr. Pretlow and other experts in the field repeat again and again that the best thing a parent can do is to be a worthy role model.

Here are a few relevant quotations, with emphasis added:

Children were 21 percent less likely to be obese in adolescence when moms spent 150-plus minutes per week on moderate-to-vigorous exercise.

Children were 56 percent less likely to be obese in adolescence when moms had BMIs in the “healthy weight” range compared to obese or underweight moms.

Children following their moms’ optimal healthy habits were also 82 percent less likely to be obese compared to children of mothers who didn’t adopt any of the five healthy behaviors.

In other words, a child’s likelihood of avoiding obesity can be predicted by the habits embraced by her or his mother. And — this is important to internalize — when a parent takes the trouble to be a good role model, the care and effort are not wasted. Kids are definitely impacted. They follow the optimal habits demonstrated by their moms, and it reduces by a huge factor their likelihood of becoming obese.

As a side effect, the study seems to throw some doubt on what has been taken as gospel up until now:

There was no significant association between a mom’s diet and childhood obesity…

What are those five habits, by the way, that if practiced by mothers will have a profound effect on their offspring?

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Eating a nutritious diet
  4. Light to moderate alcohol intake
  5. No smoking

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “5 things moms can do to reduce child obesity risk, according to a new study,” 07/10/18
Source: “Association between maternal adherence to healthy lifestyle practices and risk of obesity in offspring: results from two prospective cohort studies of mother-child pairs in the United States,”, 07/04/18
Photo credit: Mike Baird on 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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