A Decade of Tech, Part 2

Sure, the intersection between obesity and technology began long ago — with the invention of the first weighing scale. But we won’t go that far. Let’s travel back in time for a decade or so, and recall what was going on then. What better source could be found, than a Childhood Obesity News post? This one just happens to recount the origin story of the iPhone app developed by Dr. Pretlow and his team.

Charleston Children’s Hospital had a problem, namely, the inability of many children who had graduated from its eight-week intensive program to return for followups. Back home, without the continuing support of peers or mentors, they tended to fall back into old habits and, not surprisingly, to gain more than their age-appropriate number of pounds. (And of course, it goes without saying — people of every age need all the support they can get.)

The fix for this situation started with an online system where the study participants were sent reminders to weigh in, along with messages of encouragement from the staff. Dr. Pretlow described it as “a kind of electronic accountability that keeps them cognizant that they’ve always got this problem.” Of later refinements, he wrote,

Now, we’ve come up with this iPhone app. These smart phones could be used forever as a tool to help these kids deal with episodes of relapse on an indefinite basis.

The key to any sort of intervention is two-way communication. One group offers suggestions on how to proceed. The other tries them out, and reports back on the results, both objectively (through weigh-ins, BMI calculations, or other metrics) and subjectively (their feelings about all of it). Having received feedback, the first group goes to work figuring out how to improve the program. This is a winning formula.

Maintaining a healthy body weight involves a lot of factors, one of them being the persistent (and erroneous) conviction that happiness can be found in a substance, whether that substance is morphine or caramel ice cream sauce. History has proven that few substances, no, not even gold or diamonds, can provide happiness.

In the pursuit of happiness, the odds are much better with a behavior, rather than a substance. First, a substance may not always be easily obtainable. The supply-and-demand factor is beyond an individual’s control. In general, a behavior is more likely to be under almost anyone’s sovereignty.

The behavior of piano playing can bring great joy to a person. The behavior of gambling can do the opposite. Substance or behavior, any plan to break addiction has to cover all the bases.

Speaking of which, catch up with the latest iteration of Dr. Pretlow’s techniques, BrainWeighve, here: https://brainweighve.com/.

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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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