The State vs. Killing Them Softly

Childhood Obesity News mentioned Connor McCreadie, the British 8-year-old whose case was the first to stir public interest in identifying obesity enablement as child abuse. He weighed almost four times as much as he should have, and people pointed out that if the opposite were the case, if he only weighed one-fourth of his ideal weight, there would be no question about the appropriateness of government intervention.

People also remarked that if the boy were instead a horse or a dog, authorities would have jumped in long ago, to remove him from the care of his single mother and have him placed in some kind of alternate situation.

Those takes were typical of the what-aboutism that fresh controversy always inspires, and so is this quotation from an opinion piece by Jan Moir in The Telegraph:

Sometimes I wonder about these “authorities”, who seem to let malnourished children stippled with cigarette burns and mottled with fresh bruises skip back into the arms of their parental abusers with alarming regularity, while indulging in this modish obsession with obesity instead.

Although a lot of kids are victims of serious crimes that don’t leave visible scars, obese children are comparatively easier to identify. Moir implied this by comparing the social services intake mechanism to elephant hunting, chasing the cumbersome and slow-moving target.

But the making of that very point is another instance of the same fallacy; of going after the low-hanging fruit, or shooting fish in a barrel. It is inescapably true that no matter what a well-intentioned government bureau does critics can always come along and point to worse atrocities that go unaddressed.

Then the believers in state intervention say, “At least some suffering is being alleviated, even if we can’t get to it all.” And no human institution is perfect, and how should limited resources best be used, and so on, and the squabbling can continue all day.

Moir characterized Connor as “a miserable little boy entombed in a block of blubber.” As a minor and virtually immobilized child, he was obviously being purposely and grossly overfed by the woman Moir theorized about, scolded, and commiserated with:

Perhaps, as a single mother struggling with depression and her own weight problems, this situation has become so wretched because there is not much else in life Nicola can give her son except food.

How could she let things slip to the extent that her young son has become so fat that he cannot put on his own socks, or speak without wheezing, or take any meaningful form of exercise?

Mother and son seem to be locked together in a spiral of mutual despair, unable to help each other out of this pit of bad food and misery.

Of course, members of the public had their ideas, like locking the refrigerator and letting Connor go hungry unless he ate his veggies — tough love, in other words. But if his mum had the capacity to practice tough love, why had she not started long before? At any rate, the government allowed that she could keep custody as long as Connor observed a strict diet, and the family seems to have stayed out of the news since then.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Time for tough love and a lock on the fridge,”, 02/28/07
Photo on Visualhunt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

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