Multifactorialism Makes Zipping Up a Slow Job

This post finalizes the summary of posts about the intersection of overuse with tobacco, alcohol, and food. One area not covered yet is the presence of pharmacological intervention in tobacco, alcohol, and food limitation, so we have that to look forward to.

Rubber, Meet Road is in itself a roundup of several interesting points, and Road, Meet Rubber is another. The Rubber-Meets-Road Test is also a compendium. In this area of knowledge, which Dr. Pretlow calls both tricky and muddy, there are many strands to follow, and, of course, new information is being generated all the time.

“Road and Rubber Continue to Meet”

What happens when standards, ideals, aspirations, principles, and values collide with reality? Authorities confer with experts and each other, and then try various methods to make things better. A hard-won victory was the limitation of cigarette brands appearing in movies, but it is unlikely that the same result could be gained with the depiction of food in the audiovisual media.

Sometimes there are hopeful but limited results. Far too often, people continue to smoke, drink, and overeat. Some people remain obese, while others become obese, and still others devote themselves to achieving recovery from what they have learned to identify as food addiction.

Barking up the wrong tree?

If food is addictive, it makes sense to limit the availability of addictive foods. That is easier to do with children than with adults. Another desideratum is the avoidance of glorification of problem foods, through the media. Public communication has entered a surreal category beyond parody. On the same magazine cover, women are enticed by the food-porny photo of “A cake to die for” and offered redemption through “a diet to live for.”

If compulsive overeating is a behavioral addiction, what advertising might be banned to try and correct the situation? And is the marketing department the only villain? A large proportion of obesity apparently comes from a different place, from an individual’s perception of emptiness and deprivation. It is a truism that many overeaters use food as a substitute for love. Often, what a person really wants is connection. Therapy can train a person for connection. More psychologists and psychiatrists need to be in the obesity prevention field.

Therapy can also help a person figure out how to resist the false connection offered by consumerism. Ads sell the illusion of belonging, and of superiority through being part of a faux-culture composed of people who smoke the same brand of cigarette or drink the same brand of sugar-sweetened beverage.

When people derive a large part of their identity from their loyalty to corporate overlords, this is extreme codependency. It is hard to imagine them getting better through any means short of extensive, intensive therapy. But would it be possible to ban a certain sub-genre of advertising, the kind that encourages the customer’s identity to be subsumed by the product?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: Luca Florio on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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