The Treacherous Mouth

Here are some additional excerpts from and observations about Kathryn Phelan’s memoir of a 165-pound teen who wanted to be on the basketball team. After she had experienced several months of self-induced anorexia and a 60-pound weight loss, the dam broke.

It’s not as if this youngster had no warning. When she was at the 139-pound point, a doctor said, “Your body is designed to make you eat, and your body usually wins.” But she persisted, and the inevitable undoing occurred at 105 pounds, in the form of a pan of homemade brownies her mother left out to cool. Phelan wrote,

[S]omething snaps, and you think: I will have one bite. The thick fudge coats your tongue, rolls around in your mouth, sets off sense receptors you didn’t know you still had. The chocolate tastes alive. You moan with the indulgence of it. One more bite. One more. Soon you are cramming entire brownies into your mouth, chomping so hard your jaw hurts and bits of them crumble and fall, and you pick those up off the floor and shove them in, too.

The author describes how she persisted until every brownie was consumed, despite feeling as if her stomach would burst open and disgorge all the ingested baked goods in a puddle on the floor. (Buckle up now for a wild ride.) To hide the evidence of her crime, she decided that the wise course would be to whip up another batch and substitute it for the first one. Next,

You pull the tray out. Before the brownies are even cool, you’ve started eating again. You don’t even cut them, just dive in with a fork and demolish the apology you spent an hour creating.

She goes on to describe the next era in the life of a distressed young woman who makes an extreme turn and becomes capable of devouring a loaf of bread or a tub of ice cream in one sitting:

When you go away to college, you will find yourself stealing your roommates’ food, sneaking away with strangers’ leftovers in restaurants, eating until it hurts to breathe… Years will pass this way. Even after you can finally pull yourself together, your 105-pound self will berate you for every bite you take… She will pace around in your head, agitated, banging on the walls.

That’s how much trouble a person can get into for having a mouth. A story like this also demonstrates that mental health issues seriously need to be addressed, and children need to be taught the mental and emotional skills to care for their bodies appropriately, so later they won’t line up for dicey weight-loss medications, or to have their stomachs removed.

Hunger, or what?

Young people communicate with Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website to reveal the issues they wrestle with. While most kids refer to their eating urges as hunger, others, like a certain 15-year-old girl, will say insightful things like, “Hungry… but not like the regular hungry, I’m hungry and I’m not sure why…”

This is the challenge. To help kids (and grownups!) figure out what kind of erroneous scripts they are running in their heads that render them incapable even of recognizing a common and universal sensation like hunger well enough to distinguish it from some mind game the brain is playing with itself.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Lost,”, June 2017
Image by Internet, unattributed

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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.

Food & Health Resources