More Awareness Month Hints

Incrementalism, gradualism, baby steps — the exploration continues. According to Dr. Allen Beals, one particular step is very worthwhile, and this is it: Eliminate a single source of sugar.

The source he recommends ditching is the sugary beverage, whether fancy-flavored fizzy soda or seemingly innocent fruit juice. He offers a mental picture. Image a 10-year-old girl or boy biking vigorously for 30 minutes — that’s half an hour — just to burn off the calories from one 12-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage.

Dr. Beals goes on to say, “Real behavior change starts with small steps that add up.” Are we seeing a theme here? There is more:

A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine […] documented weight loss with this simple step. The year-long investigation provided easy access with home delivery of bottled water and non-caloric beverages and study participants were essentially able to eliminate all sugary drinks and juices. You can too.

Another simple, single tip recommended by many experts has been discussed on this website before. It can be tacitly demonstrated by parents, consistently, day after day, in hopes that it might be one of those habits that catch on more or less automatically, just through proximity and repetition.

This is eating slowly, taking at least half an hour for a meal. The best way to accomplish that is to chew thoroughly, which is also part of the bargain. Through mechanisms not fully understood, and if given the opportunity, the body produces a hormonal message that says, “Enough, you’re full.”

To accomplish small steps, sometimes parents need to adjust their attitudes for the greater good. Highly regarded dietitian Maryann Jacobsen published a piece called “The Feeding Strategy Every Parent Needs in Their Toolbox,” and the underlying topic is the importance of expectations.

She begins by reminding parents of what a process it is for a child to learn to read, and how long it takes to learn to write. It is understood that these things require time and practice, that not every child learns at the same pace, and that good examples are necessary. Jacobsen writes,

But when it comes to eating, we don’t share this same view, even though we should. Kids also need to learn about food and this takes time. This learning is enhanced greatly when we develop an attitude of expectation that they will indeed eat a larger variety of foods over time…

Model the behavior you want for your child in terms of eating, let them know you believe in them 100%, and then keep giving them plenty of opportunities to do it in a supportive environment.

Sometimes, along the way, we even have to lower our expectations a bit, for a period of time. As a parent, it’s best to keep those thoughts private and, in general, project high expectations. Jacobsen says,

When we go out of our way to serve children only food that they are likely to eat, or make a big deal about their limited food selections, we unknowingly lower the expectation. Our actions, and sometimes our words, are saying I don’t believe in your ability to become a good eater.

A Childhood Obesity News reader once contributed,

My sister and her 12-year-old daughter visited from out of state. As I put dinner on the table, my sister announced in kind of an arch, snarky voice, “Rhonda doesn’t do vegetables.”

I thought, “Maybe if you just kept your mouth shut, Rhonda would have taken some vegetables and eaten them. In a new place, with new people, she had an opening to do something different — which you just effectively stepped on.”

I remembered why I hadn’t seen my sister in years.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Simple Step to Stem Childhood Obesity: Eliminate One Sugar Source,”, 01/03/13
Source: “Many Years Young: Curb Overeating with This Mealtime Trick,”, 04/10/10
Source: “The Feeding Strategy Every Parent Needs in Their Toolbox,”, 12/07/12
Photo credit: Ted Drake on Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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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.

Food & Health Resources