Time Constraints and Healthy Food Choices

As previously mentioned by Childhood Obesity Newstime is often a factor. Even with a healthfully-stocked and affordable grocery store nearby, working parents just don’t have time to shop, prepare, and cook.

It’s easy to say, “Surely they have some free time. Couldn’t a family prepare a really healthful meal together at least once a week, just to set a precedent and maybe provide a foothold for change?”

It’s not always that simple. Dr. Pretlow has said,

Defining stress leads to the definition of conflict, which may be conflict over fear. It’s the economic and psychological status of poor people and the underlying stress and depression of living in a poor neighborhood and that must be improved.

Time is hard to effectively manage in a chaotic environment where the actions of neighbors, strangers, and even family members present constant demands. Dealing with unplanned emergencies is a huge energy drain. The well-to-do have no idea how stressful it is to be poor. There could be a board game, the opposite of Monopoly, where the challenges and pitfalls are overflowing toilets and tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street. People with money have garages or driveways, and more often than not, their toilets work.

The Long Game

What about another kind of time? Not just the moments and hours needed to cook and shop today, but the weeks, months, and years that humans seem to need to mull over and absorb ideas? People like what they are used to, what they grew up with. When circumstances change, nobody adapts overnight. Sometimes, a person’s mental resistance eventually wears down.

And change happens. Today, a lot of teens are quite familiar with seeing more nutritious foods emphasized at the point of sale. Even if they don’t yet accustom themselves to loving nutritious food, they are used to seeing it around. It probably makes a difference.

The whole big, complicated food desert issue is a textbook example of the problems inherent in trying to improve the world by fiat. An approach is suggested, tried, and debunked in the blink of an eye. Except under a dictatorship, governmental administrations don’t generally last long enough for real organic change to take hold.

Should we ban substance A? Restrict substance B? Insist that certain kinds of retail outlets not be located near certain institutions? Nobody can deduce what really works and anyway, the people in charge are elected officials, whose concern for outcomes rarely extends to 10 years down the road. Their attention is focused broadly on the next election cycle, but mostly on the current headlines and social media verdicts. The public demands results now, so the politician must bow.

The four essential ears

If Dr. Pretlow has said this once, he has said it a hundred times: adults need to listen to kids. Messages on the Weigh2Rock website confirm this repeatedly. For instance, he quotes a 12-year-old who weighs 186 pounds:

If parents would just take the time to listen to their kids, less kids would go to the fridge when depressed.

Abby Ellin, author of Teenage Waistland, told interviewer Mindy Bond,

[N]o one is talking to the parents of kids and no one is talking to the kids themselves.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Abby Ellin, author Teenage Waistland,” Gothamist.com, 08/05/05
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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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