Obesity Prevention Nuances

Let’s continue zipping through the many parallels, similarities, and near misses that form a complex web of relationships between the State and its mission of preventing people from doing expensive damage to themselves and others. Even with problems that seem comparable, like the widespread availability and use of tobacco and alcohol, it is surprisingly difficult to transfer solutions from one realm to another.

“Smoking and Obesity — Power and Deep Pockets”

In the area of smoking cessation, a lot of hope is riding on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which experts currently are studying intently to determine its effectiveness. ACT is being measured against Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, while other studies aim to find out if it can be administered via smartphone.

Of course, anti-obesity activists are intensely interested in anything that can help smokers lose their habits. An example of what is to be avoided, on the other hand, is the monumental failure of the DARE anti-drug program.

Smoking and Obesity — Uncle Sam to the Rescue?

And why is smoking cessation a matter for governmental intervention, anyway? We look at various aspects of that question, and whether they also apply in the struggle against obesity.

This post also reflects on how easy it is for tobacco and food to borrow from each other’s playbooks when advertising is concerned. The same hooks and tricks seem to work on smokers and compulsive overeaters. So the big question is, are they vulnerable to the same dis-incentives?

Tobacco is pretty straightforward. Mixed with a few hundred chemical additives, it is rolled into paper cylinders or packed into a pipe, and ignited. Of course there are some outliers who stuff tobacco between their cheek and gum. In the past few years, absorbing nicotine via electronic vaporizer devices has become a thing. Yet, basically, the war on smoking needs only concern itself with a single substance and a handful of delivery methods.

Food, on the other hand, contains a vast panoply of types, available in endless variety. What could be more different than a strawberry and an oyster? There are so many kinds of edible substances, so many combinations, so many preparation methods… And then, on top of that, the additional layer of complication added by the artificial distinctions created by branding. Making rules about that is infinitely more difficult than zeroing in on the lone villain, nicotine.

When Obesity Meets Governmental Concern

In order for their brains to do what brains are supposed to do when confronted with classes and curricula, kids need to eat. Malnourished children are unable to learn, for a number of reasons. People can argue all day about whether the school (the government) is morally obligated to feed kids so they can learn, but the hard cold rock-bottom fact of the matter is that if they are not fed, they can’t learn.

So, why even bother to legally require them to show up at school in the first place, if their survival would be better served by letting them roam freely to beg or steal or work for food, which they need more than algebra, and without which they are incapable of grasping algebra anyway?

Currently, the government feeds a lot of children. Now, reconcile that with the equal and opposite and simultaneous responsibility to prevent obesity. Neither tobacco nor alcohol has been required to grapple, even superficially, with a similar conundrum.

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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.

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