Displacement Thoughts With Particular Slants

Coronavirus Chronicles — Boredom and Distraction

For anyone whose go-to stress response is eating, times of enforced isolation and heightened anxiety are particularly bad times. This seems to be the case whether eating is a chemical addiction or a behavioral addiction. In addition to all the other problems inherent in the pandemic, to prevent their children from eating constantly, parents were called upon to devise means of capturing their attention and filling their time.

Coronavirus Chronicles — Depression, Boredom, and Eatertainment

The rogue displacement mechanism of overeating can be overcome by distractions, but distraction only works if the subject is interested in the distractor. This piece addresses the triple threat of depression, boredom, and eatertainment when kids are required to spend too much time at home.

Coronavirus Chronicles — Displacement Is Substitution

Displacement activity occurs in many forms, of which eating is one. But what happens when there just isn’t any food? This was the situation faced by many parents at the height of the pandemic. Dr. Pretlow says,

Displacement activity is an innate, hard-wired, instinctual, automatic biobehavioral mechanism… Displacement activity is rechanneling of overflow energy from conflicted or thwarted drives into another drive.

Displacement — Definitions and Examples

Dr. Pretlow explains how displacement, or rechanneling overflow brain energy to another drive (feeding) unbalances the equilibrium between two other opposing drives, and how this can resolve a stressful situation at the moment. Of course, it sets up another threatening situation in slow motion, creating obesity that will in turn become a stressful situation

Some Displacement Background

This post looked at Niko Tinbergen’s ideas on displacement theories, and how other experts questioned his methods and conclusions.

Tapping the Source of Malaise

This post examines the idea that it is not food that causes overeating, but the life situations the person is facing. It introduces Carly Hurt, the young woman who has played such a big part in the advancement of Dr. Pretlow’s work with adolescents.

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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