Everything You Know About Avoidance Is Wrong

… Or is it? That is the eternal question. Despite decades of scientific research, there are still as many theories about food as there are theorists.

Rob Lawson, who teaches basic nutrition for athletes, disagrees. In an interview podcast with The Bulletproof Executive he presented a viewpoint based on the premise that being “ridiculously obsessive” about nutrition is harmful, and that “You have to eat the foods that you like.” Lawson said,

You can work any food you like into your program as long as you’re smart about it… I think it helps in the long term when people realize they can eat anything they want as long as they are accountable for the amount and they make sure they are getting protein, essential fatty acids, vegetables, and fruits in. As long as you hit certain base levels, anything on top of that as long as you can work it into your calorie budget.

He holds that there are many different paths, but no one absolute way that is guaranteed to work for everyone, and “as long as you can make it work for you that’s really all that matters in the end.” Also, in its introduction, this transcript contains a generic Warning and Disclaimer that says, “We certify that at least one statement on the above-mentioned web sites and/or in this report is wrong” — without specifying which statement it is.

Downright sacrilege

Of course, there is always a fire-breathing heretic, in this case exemplified by David B. Allison, Ph.D., who expressed the view that people who try to eat the “right” foods — like veggies, fruit, whole grains, and fat-free dairy products — are often confused about the healthiness of food in relation to its calorie content. He once wrote,

People have, of course, lost weight on diets rich in foods generally thought of as healthy, but they’ve also lost weight on both high-fat and low-fat diets, and even on diets consisting only of food purchased at McDonald’s or composed largely of Twinkies.

Do these ideas have traction? Maybe what is true for an obese child, struggling with many different issues (including too much sedentary, passive activity) is not true for an adult athlete who works out every day with an abundance of actual, calorie-burning activity. And/or maybe a grownup with concrete goals and a sterling performance ethic can have a bag of chips once in a while, without triggering the whole edifice of self-care to come tumbling down. Is it worth taking the risk?

Oh, but…

As we know, in Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go program, a key element is recognizing that certain problem foods just have to be avoided. And this isn’t a mere theory; it has been shown. In the same way that a recovering alcoholic simply can’t drink, there are other people who simply cannot open a bag of potato chips without risking the loss of all the hard work spent keeping their weight within bounds.

This is why the techniques recommended in “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People,” by Dr. Pretlow and Carol M. Stock, JD, MSN, are so important. The troubled person identifies and lists all problem foods.

Seventy percent (70%) of these participants seemed truly dependent/addicted to the foods, in that they reported cravings for the food, sought out or purchased the food, and had significant difficulty staying away from it.

Then, the person figures out all the circumstances and occurrences that can trigger a harmful eating episode, and eliminates them. For instance, if watching a suspenseful movie brings on the urge to snack, it might be necessary to switch to an alternate form of entertainment, or maybe even get up and move around. And guess what? To avoid the triggers is much less wear and tear on the nervous system than letting matters progress to the stage where you have to face up to actual food.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Transcript of Podcast #12 The Bulletproof Executive,” NetDNA-ssl.com, undated
Source: “Diet Myth: Eat Healthy Foods, and You’ll Lose Weight,” CookingLight.com, 03/07/14
Source: “Addiction Model Intervention for Obesity in Young People,” Robert A. Pretlow, MD, MSEE, FAAP Carol M. Stock, JD, MSN, November 10, 2014
Image by Nick Fewings/CC BY 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.

Food & Health Resources