Coronavirus Chronicles — When Hope Is Sparse

A few years ago, childhood obesity was in the news a lot because of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move! campaign that inspired the nation to see that problem as something other than a joke. Now, because of the plague caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, it has become even more serious — and back then, the virus was “small potatoes” compared to now.

As this blog often points out, obesity and the virus team up and enable each other in many ways. Even in June, when the pandemic was just getting off the ground (relative to the high-flying threat that it would become), grownups were alarmed. Parents, teachers, and health professionals were upset about children losing their opportunities for physical exercise. They began to realize that the combined impact of COVID-19 and obesity is more than the sum of its parts.

Lilee Williams of wrote then, “many of the factors that have gone in to self-quarantine and social distancing for the coronavirus have negative impacts on children.” Since then, it has only become worse. All over the world, people are observing various degrees of isolation as mandated by law or common sense. Of course, not everyone’s situation is the same, but by and large, parents are suffering from the demands of multitasking. They not only have to figure out how to keep paying the bills, but are obliged to become teachers of academic subjects. In addition, they are supposed to be Physical Education teachers with no experience, environmental support, or equipment.

U.B. studies Italy

The University of Buffalo studied the effects of last April and May on some overweight children in Italy and found that they were putting in, daily, a whopping five hours more of electronic screen time, than they had done in the same months of the previous year. Their physical activity had lessened by two hours a week, and they consumed the equivalent of an extra meal daily.

But you haven’t heard the worst part yet. These kids had already been enrolled in an anti-obesity treatment program! The only good aspect of that is, they were accustomed to filling out behavioral questionnaires, and everything about their 2019 habits had already been documented, as a basis for comparison.

After interviewing study co-author Professor Myles Faith, journalist Ryan Prior jotted down notes on role-modeling:

The most important way that families can push back together against less healthy lockdown habits is by creating a culture within the household centered on healthy living.

Don’t bring junk food home, say the experts, and don’t be afraid of experimenting with salad dressings until kids discover one they don’t mind finding carrots underneath. Prepare and eat family meals together. Try to limit the children’s sedentary screen lives to academic needs and vital social connections. Strive for the optimally healthy combination of routine and leniency. Praise children for doing well, or for at least trying.

And remember, they are watching and taking their cues from you. The most important advice for parents is to remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “COVID-19 Lockdown Is Negatively Impacting Kids Struggling With Obesity,”, 06/05/20
Source: “Sedentary lockdowns put kids at risk for obesity. Here’s how to help them stay moving,” 06/12/20
Image by Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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