What to Build, and Why

Let’s continue exploring a life-improving strategy that is absolutely free — attitude change. For starters, it is simple, although it may not be easy. The good news is, adopting a new mindset can be as easy as a person decides to let it be. What are some things that we can resolve to change our attitudes about?

There are parents who for some reason (usually, the actions of their own parents) find it very difficult to let their kids feel too good about themselves. Some parents are, in other words, active aggressors against their children’s self-esteem. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

First, a basic question needs to be answered. Why would any parent want to build a child’s self-esteem? There are a thousand reasons, and here at Childhood Obesity News, we focus on one of them. Simply put, when children feel bad, and in need of emotional consolation and compensation, they look for a solution. Eating is the answer many of them find. Food is their drug of choice for multiple societal and cultural reasons which our posts have examined.

But today’s point is, emotional eating is probably the biggest cause of childhood obesity. Emotional eating can be minimized or eliminated by granting a child the ability to develop self-esteem. A very generous and thoughtful article from HoustonNanny.com offers a 10-point inspiration list that makes a lot of sense. Here is a favorite:

Pay Attention — It seems simple, but taking the time to listen to your child when she speaks and to absorb the details of her day lets her know that you’re truly invested in her life and that you care what she’s up to. Knowing that you value her opinion and are there to support her makes it easier for your child to approach new situations with confidence.

Why does this sound so familiar? Because Dr. Pretlow talks about it all the time. The very title of his book, Overweight: What Kids Say, affirms the importance of listening to the young people who struggle with these problems. The important concept here is that by listening now, and providing fertile ground for the growth of self-esteem, a parent might be able to avoid the necessity for listening later, when the only thing that has grown is the child’s waistline.

We’re talking preventative medicine here, the kind that doesn’t even need a prescription, and doesn’t cost a cent. Another excellent suggestion is to avoid comparisons. No good can be served by comparing one child to another, either positively or negatively. It is not a child’s job to provide trophies for a parent to display. A child’s only responsibility is to become the best self that she or he is able to be.

The L word

Writer Jacqueline Burt Cote echoes the same sentiments:

[P]arents would do better to emphasize healthy eating and exercise, and to focus on making a kid feel safe and unconditionally loved. Because feeling good about yourself is an automatic safeguard against behaviors like overeating anyway!

She speaks from her own experience:

I was 8 years old when my well-meaning mother told me I was getting a little “chubby” and maybe it would be “fun” if we went on a diet together. Yes, fun! If by “fun” she meant that I’d be saddled with an at times severe case of anorexia for the next couple of decades, then sure!

Cote is specifically talking about the foolishness of hanging any label on a child, especially a food-related one like “picky.” The resentment that a child can feel about being labeled in any way can run very, very deep. She cites a study suggesting that the description “picky” can cause a child to shun fruits and vegetables.

We fear that in the case of an emotionally needy and unstable child, it can do much worse. Contemplate living with a child who is determined to prove a parent wrong, and to demonstrate how very un-picky he is by eating everything in sight.

Remember, labeling is just another word for name-calling, and name-calling never ends well.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “10 Secrets to Building Your Child’s Self-Esteem,” HoustonNanny.com, undated
Source: “Telling Your Daughter She’s ‘Fat’ Is Not Your Job,” CafeMom.com, 02/10/15
Photo credit: Got Credit on Visualhunt/CC BY

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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