Parents and the Long Game

In the previous Childhood Obesity News post, we talked about how parents have a much greater chance of success when they remember that it’s all about the Long Game. Sometimes it takes a while for people to process things. However, ideas can change when their emotional roots are probed.

An individual’s food attitudes can evolve, and when the number of individuals reaches critical mass, societal changes are inevitable. It is possible that food insecurity could be ended by a couple of generations of the right kind of education, along with a massive amount of therapy.

We mentioned Abby Ellin, author of Teenage Waistland, and former fat camp client, whose grandmother would not allow her to visit because she was too fat. Interviewer Mindy Bond quotes Ellin:

[P]arents expect that the kid is going to lose weight and that’ll be that. They go away, they lose their 20 pounds or 30 pounds, whatever they lose, and they’re never gonna have a weight problem again. That’s not true. It’s one thing to lose weight; it’s a totally different thing to maintain it.

One reviewer of Ellin’s book remarked about parents,

What they don’t know is how to effectively help an often discouraged, often reluctant kid on what will be a difficult, life-long journey.

How is a family to cope with that long span of time affectionately known as “forever”?


Self-improvement writer Thomas Oppong has quite a few ideas about small daily gains, long-term habit formation, and behavioral change that sticks. This is only a taste:

One mistake people make over and over when they want to get more do or achieve a goal is trying to do too much all at once… But 1% a day makes every habit work… Improving by just 1 percent isn’t noticeable but it makes the most difference.

A micro-habit is a small, simple action that doesn’t require much motivation, but will help you build up to a larger goal habit.

Important warning

There are things a child or teenager is probably not going to do, and one of those things is to say, “Mom, Dad, you were right all along, thank you, thank you!” Dear parent, if you have tried for years to instill good eating habits, and all of a sudden your kid catches on, just give thanks silently. Forget about stroking your own ego.

There is no need to mention how correct you have always been, and how wrong, up until now, your offspring has always been. The words “I told you so” must be expunged from your vocabulary and even from your thoughts.

If a kid suddenly develops a higher consciousness about eating, whether because of athletic ambitions, or hoping to look better in clothes, or whatever, just be grateful, and be quiet. This is no time for mutterings about how the kid has now decided to listen to the coach or to some enlightened friend, even though she or he never listened to you, and blah blah blah.

Even if it takes every ounce of willpower — unless your secret intention is to wipe out progress and undo any good that has been done — exercise self-restraint. Just bite your tongue and accept the positive change.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Abby Ellin, author Teenage Waistland,”, 08/05/05
Source: “Teenage Waistland,”, 01/09/07
Source: “Small Wins, Marginal Gains: That’s How You Change Behavior in The Long Term,”, 06/09/18
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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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