Projections and Holiday Collections

There is hope that the amount of taxpayers’ money spent on obesity-related problems can be reduced, and also of course that the human misery caused by these problems can be alleviated. The previous Childhood Obesity News post discussed how journalist Peter Ubel used a holiday hook from which to hang not a stocking full of treats, but a year-round message: “How to Keep Santa from Making Our Kids Fat.”

His Forbes article summarized the results of a study designed to predict which governmental interventions could actually make a difference, in terms of “bang for the buck”:

1. Sugar-sweetened beverage tax. A tax of one cent per ounce on sugar-sweetened beverages would cost about $50 million dollars to implement, but would […] prevent more than half a million cases of childhood obesity by 2025.

2. Eliminate tax deductibility of ads seen by children for unhealthy foods. This policy would cost less than one million dollars to implement while preventing almost 130,000 cases of childhood obesity.

3. Setting nutrition standards — for foods sold in schools that aren’t part of school meals. This policy would cost $22 million to implement while preventing almost 350,000 children from becoming obese.

Incidentally, the meta-analysis by which these preferences were determined made allowance for the delayed reaction effect. The researchers acknowledge that it took typically 18 months, and as long three years, to observe a decrease in the BMI of the subjects in each of the interventions. This reconfirms the importance of longitudinal studies when trying to make sense out of how spending impacts results, farther on down the road.

A Sad Loss

Another Compendium of Holiday Posts” mentions Dr. Billi Gordon, one of the most unorthodox and sensitive writers about the conjunction of obesity, holidays, and family. It has been almost two years since Billi Gordon was described by a Los Angeles Times obituary writer as “entertainer, model, writer, and neuroscientist.”

At one point, Gordon weighed nearly 1,000 pounds, and only made it back down to about 700. Holder of a Ph.D. in Integrative Behavioral Neuroscience, he was in the cast of the TV show “Married with Children” and the film Coming to America. Psychology Today published his column “Obesely Speaking.” The LA Times says he…

[…] studied emotion, the pathophysiology of race, minority health disparities, as well as a variety of work in gastroenterology and obesity — all issues that impacted him personally, and for which he felt a sense of duty to help others.

Billi Gordon saw the importance of admitting painful truths about the supposedly happy holidays. He talked about things like symbolic eating, about the double-edged sword of abundance. The holiday dynamic is that the hosts must prove they have a lot, and the guests must confirm it by consuming a lot. Eating and drinking everything that is on offer, and a huge pile of it — whether you really want to or not — is de rigueur. A guest is obligated to validate the host’s generosity by violating her or his own standards and self-promises.

Other guests either knew you when you were nobody, and want to gloat about that; or knew you when you were doing better, and now feel barely-concealed schadenfreude, rejoicing in your downfall. They warned you not to get fancy ideas, not to leave the old neighborhood, and now look at you — driving a borrowed car and bringing a rented fake girlfriend to Christmas dinner.

In ancient times, a Lord of Misrule would be chosen to preside over the holidays, to decree an authorized binge for everybody. Now, each person feels entitled to play the Lord of Misrule.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How To Keep Santa From Making Our Kids Fat: Three Ways To Reduce Childhood Obesity,”, 12/23/16
Image by Dan Lundberg/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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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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