Coronavirus Chronicles — Coping With Nothingness

No one wants to hear this, but it looks like we are in for a long, cold dark winter of isolation. There is an ongoing debate over sheltering in place. Is it worse for a lone person, or for someone stuck inside with family members they may love, but don’t particularly want to be in 24/7 contact with?

The answer is, both. Loneliness and the lack of social stimulation can lead to bad problems, but at this point, many parents would rather be marooned on an iceberg or an asteroid than spend another day with their beloved offspring. The most famous quotation from Jean-Paul Sartre is, “Hell is other people,” and many parents are muttering under their breath right now, “I can attest to that. The old philosopher must have known my kids.”

Yes, it matters very much

We hope to prevent children from gaining inappropriate weight because, aside from the increased risk of having a bad time with COVID-19, obesity is, in and of itself, a very unhealthy condition with many adverse consequences. Keeping children away from other people causes problems on every level. Unable to interact with relatives outside the nuclear family, distanced from their friends, kids are emotionally deprived. Parents have their own problems and sometimes, regrettably, parents are the problem. At any rate, emotional turmoil is a notorious obesity villain.

Without diversions like park visits, movies, or even tagging along to the grocery store, children are B-O-R-E-D. Boredom is, notoriously, a cause of recreational eating, otherwise known as eatertainment.

The villain of villains

Obesity is far from being the only problem created by the necessity to observe greater or lesser levels of separation. For the title of “Worst COVID-19 Co-Conspirator,” obesity is in competition with a lot of other serious players. However, a lot of the other inconveniences and tragedies caused by the virus also contribute to obesity. The virus has both direct and indirect effects on the obesity pandemic. The other problems somehow manage to find ways to contribute to obesity by providing emotional deprivation, boredom, or both.

Kids are missing meals and don’t have the technology they need for remote learning but do have nightmares, and sometimes they wet their beds. They are living in more poverty, missing their vaccinations, seeing their dental and other medical needs (including childhood obesity monitoring) set aside. Child abuse is rampant, orphanages are short-staffed, foster parents are afraid to take kids, and the adoption process is bottlenecked.

According to research curated by two venerable institutions, children make up 11.3% of America’s infected population. That’s based on a total of 927,518, which is inching up on a million pretty fast. Typically, issues receive more attention when numbers exceed a million. For bringing this to our attention, these are the people to thank, and the linked page is the place to find a trove of information:

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association are collaborating to collect and share all publicly available data from states on child COVID-19.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Children and COVID-19: State-Level Data Report,” 11/05/20
Image by Kurt Bauschardt/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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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