Parents, Proactive and Protective

This post continues to meditate on a piece by Julia Olech, who is trying to scare us. Listen to this:

Some parents begin exposing their children to junk food when they’re as young as five months. According to a UNICEF study, almost two in three children between six months and three years of age don’t get appropriate nutrition due to overconsumption of junk food. This can heavily stunt their development and lead to poor brain growth, slow learning, low immunity, risks of increased infections, and, in some cases, death.

But that is not all. Even if these individuals do attain average or near-average lifespans, the odds are greater than 50/50 that they will always be overweight or obese. When obesity gains a foothold in the early years, the prognosis does not inspire joy.

In a world where so many dangers lurk, and in which parents are often unable to effect real change, the good news is that they can actually do quite a lot. Take, for instance, the attitude of resistance to junk food. Yes, the global marketing machine is powerful, but parents do not have to hopelessly surrender to it.

Construct a shield

The lives of most children begin with a limited period of time during which their caregiving adults can exert the utmost control over what these brand-new humans see, hear, taste, and generally experience. It helps to be conscious of this grace period and make the best of the all-too-brief opportunity to flex our omnipotence.

Every 24 hours, it becomes more difficult to block out the world at large, so it’s a good idea to start really young and take advantage of each day in which children are unable to consume either meals or media based on their own fallible choices. With even the youngest of babies, a parent can begin to show healthy intent. Start with an action seemingly small, but always meaningful. Maybe just choose to mute the TV during ads, limiting exposure to the obnoxious, hectoring, yet somehow nearly irresistible siren song.

Do not hesitate to seek help

More than anything, a parent should endeavor to set a good example, which is harder than a person might think. One thing we need to face is that it may not be easy. We might have to “shop around,” seek additional advice, and try a couple of different approaches. We have to work within existing reality, like the tendency of some teenagers to remain inert, no matter what. Olech writes,

Be a role model: Children often mimic adults, so show them you also choose healthy options. When you make good food choices and limit your junk food intake, they’re more likely to do the same.

Yes, 1,000%. Kids often resist instruction and they always detest hypocrisy. If the grownups are playing “Do as I say, not as I do,” the effort will not go well. Role modeling is susceptible to many hazards. Some kids admire and willingly imitate their parents’ best habits, attitudes, and principles. But (and this is supported by copious evidence) there are ways of setting an example that can cause a child to bitterly resolve never to become anything like that parent.

If one sincerely desires to inspire and not repel the young, various types of counseling are available. There are support groups and other social arrangements to help people learn the skills. There are how-to books, and recordings of very competent teachers saying extraordinarily helpful things.

Some find this hard to believe, but in random instances even the government has been found to offer some pretty awesome resources. In seeking a better way to proceed, a person will learn useful skills and interesting facts, like how incredibly clever a reference librarian can be at finding information.

An appallingly negative example gives hope

History teaches us that it is all too possible for parents whose evil purpose is spreading hate, to indoctrinate their children into, for instance, a Ku Klux Klan mindset. To pick a less drastic example, an entire family will probably be united in glorifying a given sports team (and despising another one).

Surely they could as easily be convinced to participate in communal hatred for the corporate overlords who hope to sell us poison disguised as nourishment. A lot of kids arrive on the planet with a strong innate need to rebel against the status quo. Maybe you don’t want them rebelling against school, church, or family. The discreet introduction of Big Food as the designated enemy could be a real game-changer!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,”, 02/13/24
Image by Mike Lowe/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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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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