Oprah on Weight Stigma and Displacement Intervention

For decades, Oprah Winfrey has been an icon of empowerment and resilience, but behind her public persona lay a battle with weight stigma that was both personal and deeply pervasive. In a March 18 ABC special titled “An Oprah Special: Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution,” Oprah opened up about the relentless scrutiny she faced regarding her weight over the years and delivered a poignant message of self-acceptance and compassion for others, also underscoring the importance of displacement intervention.

Decades-long body shaming took its toll

Reflecting on the relentless criticism she endured, Oprah recounted instances where her appearance was dissected and ridiculed by the media. From disparaging headlines to hurtful comments, she bore the brunt of a societal obsession with body image that often equates worth with weight.

“I have to say that I took on the shame that the world gave to me. For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” Oprah candidly expressed during the special.

She vividly recalled the hurtful labels thrown her way, including being described as “bumpy, lumpy and downright dumpy” on the cover of TV Guide in 1990. These experiences were not just personal slights but emblematic of a broader culture that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and unrealistic beauty standards.

Let’s end the weight stigma, Oprah said

But Oprah’s message wasn’t just about her own struggles; it was a call to action against the pervasive culture of body shaming. She urged an end to the stigma and judgment surrounding weight, emphasizing the need for compassion and understanding in discussions about health and wellness.

Oprah said:

In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget. And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day I started to gain it back.

A holistic approach beyond the meds

Winfrey’s journey toward self-acceptance didn’t end with mere acknowledgment of the problem; she actively sought solutions and found solace in weight-loss medication, alongside a balanced approach to fitness and nutrition. By sharing her experiences with GLP-1 prescription medications like Ozempic, Mounjaro, Victoza, and Wegovy, she aimed to destigmatize their use and provide hope to those struggling with weight management.

Oprah’s decision to combine medication with healthy lifestyle choices, including hiking, exercise, and mindful eating, underscores the complexity of addressing weight-related issues. It’s a holistic approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of health and well-being, rejecting simplistic narratives that prioritize appearance over overall wellness.

Throughout the special, Winfrey emphasized that obesity is not a character flaw but a complex medical condition deserving of empathy and support. Oprah said: “The number one thing I hope people come away with is knowing that [obesity] is a disease, and it’s in the brain.” What is the disease in the brain? Hijacking of the reward system? Displacement mechanism going rogue? All good questions.

Dr. Pretlow weighed in:

Displacement intervention (problem solving, rechanneling excess brain energy), with medications as an assist, may be the best approach for obesity. Also, displacement intervention may be a way to get off the medications, which otherwise would need to be taken for life.

“Evidence-based interventions”

Oprah seems to agree. Joined by medical experts, she challenged misconceptions about weight loss and highlighted the importance of evidence-based interventions in tackling obesity. Personally, she uses the medication in combination with “hiking 3 to 5 miles a day,” running, weight resistance training, and eating a “healthy diet.”

Dr. W. Scott Butsch and Dr. Amanda Velazquez, medical professionals specializing in obesity medicine, lent their expertise to the conversation, debunking myths and advocating for a more nuanced understanding of weight-related issues. They emphasized that obesity is not simply a matter of willpower but a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors.

In a world where body image is often weaponized against individuals, Oprah’s courage in confronting her own demons and advocating for change is both empowering and inspiring. Her journey also throws light on how displacement activities can work in tandem (or not) with weight loss medications to bring positive outcomes.

There’s a study for that!

The ability to rechannel displacement into less harmless activities rather than succumbing to urges is behind the behavior modification app, BrainWeighve, currently ramping up for a trial through the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). The trial focuses on weight loss for obese teens using “a self-directed, physician-supervised program withdrawing from one problem food at a time.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Oprah Winfrey says she has released the shame of being ‘ridiculed’ for her weight for 25 years,” ABC News, March 19, 2024
Source: “Oprah Winfrey reveals she starved herself ‘for nearly five months’ in ABC weight loss special,” USA TODAY, March 18, 2024
Image by Nik on Unsplash

Life Hacks for Parents

We have computer professionals to thank for the term “hack.” It’s a quick and probably inelegant solution whose chief virtue is that it works. From there, the word grew to signify any strategy that gets the chores done fast. In more respectable language, it’s a time management technique; an efficiency aid fulfilling the criterion of “Work smart, not hard.” It used to go by a more genteel name, like “helpful hint,” but by now, most people are familiar with the term “life hack.”

A life hack is a useful shortcut or fix, the sort of everyday remedy our parents might have passed on to us, if we had not been so busy fending off their concerns and rejecting their efforts to teach us something. We probably all went through a stage of not wanting to be told a darn thing, and in some cases that became a prolonged stage. Anyway, we’re all grown up now with kids of our own, and have entered the stage of shouting into the abyss, “Help! Help!”

And then, along comes an expert who can solve all our problems and with no pain or friction, lead those young’uns onto the right track! Well, not quite, because very few techniques ever work in every case. That’s just the multifactorial nature of life, which can become ornery. Still, it never hurts to choose one of the reliable, time-tested tricks of the trade, and give it a whirl.

For instance, there is the old standby, the fake choice. As a blogger Adriadne Brill described it,

Let’s say your child is doing something completely unacceptable. Provide her with two alternatives that are safe, respectful and acceptable, and let her choose what she will do from there. By receiving two choices, the child can keep some control over her decisions while still learning about boundaries.

So, the kid scoops a handful of crunchy nuggets out of the dog’s dish. The parent can offer, instead, the choice of a graham cracker or a handful of dry cereal. Often a parent can be surprised by how easy it is to divert a naive child’s attention and preserve the peace.

Childhood Obesity News has previously offered “hacks” for particular situations, like Halloween and the pandemic.

In fact, they might be worth looking at again, because of the adaptability factor. And never underestimate the power of a deepfake. If your very young and innocent child is in love with a certain brand of cereal because of the character depicted on the box, it might be possible to buy a more nourishing and/or economical brand instead, and just keep pouring it into the same box for about six months. Who knows? A motivated parent could get away with this ruse until the child starts kindergarten.

Some might call this deception; others might affirm that it is perfectly okay to go with a gentler, more forgiving expression, and “pull the wool over a child’s eyes” for the child’s own good.

Schedule = excellent idea

For a straightforward and totally frank household rule, the standard of consistent meal times is a good one to set, and important for more than one reason. First, a meal schedule implies the absence of snacking, whose banishment is always desirable. If a child is consistently hungry before mealtime, some research needs to be done into the possible reasons.

Together, the parent and the child could look up the facts on what kind of food is likely to promote that feeling of satiety the longest. A parent could keep track of the results, or it could be a mutual science project, with its own clipboard. When that child gets older, she or he could help a sibling do the why-am-I-still-hungry? research.

Who knows? Thirty years from now, you might look back and marvel that this DIY project led to your child winning a world-class science award. Try to look at every parenting annoyance as a challenge, and every challenge as an opportunity, and see what happens.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “12 alternatives to spanking and timeout,” AttachmentParenting.org, 10/02/14
Image by Marco Verch/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Parents, Proactive and Protective, Continued

Although the corporate magnates exert pressure on us to eat worthless pseudo-food, parents do not have to surrender to that pressure. The easiest time to push back is in the first few years of a child’s life, when there are fewer influences at work, and those that do exist are easier for parents to control.

“Give me a child until age 7 and I will have him for a lifetime.” Throughout history, leaders and organizations have proclaimed variations of that idea, and for a very good reason — because it is valid. The lessons that are taught to a child, and even more importantly, the behavior that is modeled to a child in the earliest years, will stick.

Whether we like it or not, this is how human beings function. The psyche is formed early, and often indelibly. First impressions sink in the deepest, and are very difficult (if not impossible) to uproot in later years.

Before saying “I do…”

The most difficult influences to resist are family members, and this is something to think about before hooking up with the intention of raising children together. One problem here is our erroneous concept of compatibility. When pondering on whether or not to meld our life with another person’s, we tend to take the wrong factors into consideration. Do we enjoy the same movies? Do we agree on vacation destinations? Do we vote for the same political candidates?

The thing is, once you are married, you might refinish a floor together, or set up the backyard for straw-bale gardening. Collaborating on real-world projects takes a whole different skill set. It may turn out that you and the prospective partner will view very few cinematic masterpieces in each other’s company. There are plenty of happy, successful marriages in which the two people never watch a movie together.

When people really love each other, they figure it out. They vacation in the mountains one year, and at the beach the next year. And regardless of which candidate wins the election, this couple, just like everyone else, will still live in a world full of challenges and injustices that need to be met one at a time.

Get right down to the real nitty-gritty

If you contemplate co-parenting with someone, it is a lot more important to discuss your thoughts about what your children should eat. Are you both convinced of the importance of breastfeeding? Do you both understand the amount of cooperation and selflessness required to make that program a success? Do you share the same thoughts about when solid food should be introduced? Are you on the same page about the importance of teaching by example?

Even when parents are in strong agreement, as time goes on it becomes more difficult to stand by their beliefs. Have you talked about how to handle the suggestions and the actions of each other’s relatives, and your own? Are you ready to tell your babysitting sister not to give your kid any candy? Practice the sentence, “We agreed, no ice cream until age 5, and that’s how it’s going to be.” Can you stand up to your own mother and say it?

A parent can, to a certain extent, limit exposure to relatives who encourage inappropriate eating habits. There are surely books about how to do that, and no doubt videos too. And there is live help, through phone and online counseling services that a person can sign up for to address one particular issue.

This is not spending years on a couch talking to a bearded man about your nightmares. This is hiring a professional for a limited amount of time to address a specific problem: “How do we deal with relatives who want to feed junk to our kids?” It is a suggestion worth considering.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Scott Raymond/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Shame, Blame, and Oprah’s Special

 In the ongoing battle against obesity, a new front has emerged in the form of GLP-1 weight-loss drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Zepbound. These medications, heralded for their potential to revolutionize weight management, have garnered immense popularity, with projections suggesting that by 2030, roughly 10% of the U.S. population will be relying on them, driving the category’s sales to surpass a staggering $100 billion.

The recent endorsement from Oprah Winfrey during an ABC special titled “Shame, Blame and the Weight Loss Revolution” has provided another significant cultural boost to these drugs. In the groundbreaking special aired on March 18, Oprah shared her personal journey with one of these weight-loss medications, reframing obesity as a disease rather than a personal choice. “For 25 years, making fun of my weight was national sport,” Oprah said in the special’s introduction. She recalled a TV Guide cover that referred to her as “lumpy, bumpy, and downright dumpy…”

She candidly revealed her previous misconception that individuals who never struggled with weight were simply exerting superior willpower — a belief shattered upon experiencing the transformative effects of medication.

Oprah said:

All these years, I thought all of the people who never had to diet were just using their willpower, and they were for some reason stronger than me…

She also said:

In an effort to combat all the shame, I starved myself for nearly five months and then wheeled out that wagon of fat that the internet will never let me forget… And after losing 67 pounds on a liquid diet, the next day, y’all, the very next day I started to gain it back.

Central to Oprah’s narrative was the spotlight on GLP-1 agonists, a class of drugs mimicking a hormone that suppresses appetite and regulates blood sugar levels. These medications, including Ozempic, Mounjaro, Wegovy, and Zepbound, have demonstrated remarkable efficacy, aiding some patients in shedding approximately 20% of their body weight. Despite being initially approved to treat Type 2 diabetes, certain drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro have found off-label use for weight loss, while others like Wegovy and Zepbound are explicitly sanctioned as anti-obesity medications.

Winfrey’s special served as a platform to showcase the success stories of those who achieved significant weight loss with GLP-1 drugs, while also featuring insights from executives and medical experts associated with the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing these medications. Notably, Oprah’s commitment to transparency led her to sever ties with WeightWatchers’ board, redirecting her stock to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest, given the company’s endorsement of anti-obesity medications.

However, amidst the burgeoning popularity of drugs like Wegovy and Zepbound, skepticism persists, particularly regarding their widespread adoption among those seeking to shed a few pounds without weight-related health concerns. A Pew poll conducted in February revealed that 62% of respondents view these medications as unsuitable for people without weight-related health issues, echoing concerns voiced by some physicians who question the necessity of medical intervention for weight loss in certain cases.

As it’s been established, the use of GLP-1 drugs can cause side effects ranging from gastrointestinal discomfort to more severe complications like pancreatitis and obstructions in the digestive system. Heightened scrutiny also surrounds potential long-term risks, including an elevated susceptibility to thyroid cancer.

In defense of these medications, Dr. Amanda Velazquez, a weight-loss specialist and consultant for pharmaceutical companies, downplayed the significance of side effects, categorizing them as “mild to moderate” based on research findings. Nonetheless, empirical evidence suggests that adverse reactions may prompt a significant proportion of patients to discontinue medication, leading to weight regain — a reality acknowledged by Velazquez during the special.

At the special’s end, Oprah emphasized that weight-loss drugs may not be for everyone and that some people may choose not to lose weight or to do so with diet and exercise. But “for the people who think that this could be the relief and support and freedom […] that you’ve been looking for your whole life,” she said, “bless you.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ozempic Gets the Oprah Treatment in a New TV Special,” TIME, 3/18, 24
Source: “The Biggest Takeaways From Oprah’s Ozempic Special,” The Cut, 3/19/24
Image by Love Quotes on Flickr

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?,” CyberGhostVPN.com, 02/13/24
Image by Mike Lowe/CC BY 2.0 DEED

The Washing of the Brains

A brand-new study, published only last month, reveals the folk whose profession is to influence children to nag their parents until the grownups give up and buy Product B instead of Product A. We don’t want those to be our children; or ourselves to be those parents. And yet, entire battalions of silver-tongued orators are at work “shaping a whole generation’s unhealthy eating habits.” We’re talking about (alleged) food with high taste and low nutrition; with high convenience, and (usually) low cost.

The stuff is everywhere. Julia Olech writes,

Studies show children see about 13 food ads every day, while teens see 16. Only 1 out of 10 of these ads are for healthy foods like fruit and vegetables — the rest are all for junk food. These can come in the form of short ad segments slotted into breaks in favorite shows, but also as product placement marketing in movies, TV shows, music videos, and other forms of entertainment.

It has been shown that teens, after hearing pitches delivered by “influencers,” will actually eat 26% more junk food. On social media, a child or a teen might easily encounter more than a hundred junk food promotions in a single week. Multiplied by the number of weeks, that comes out to well over 5,000 doses of brainwashing per year.

Children and teens might be variously described as vulnerable, innocent, dumb, or, as the author says, not having “the cognitive skills needed to understand the intent of junk food adverts.” No matter how you slice it, the baloney is hip-deep and rising. The author gives many examples, and when it comes to YouTube? Don’t get her started!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 90% of food promotions on YouTube are for types of junk food. Just a quick search on the platform reveals hundreds of videos of kids unboxing new Happy Meal toys, reviewing new Hershey’s chocolates, and receiving PR packages from big junk food brands.

And, no surprise here, adults are also vulnerable to having their lives negatively impacted by this advertising. After all, we were once children, and in most of our lives, no influence has arisen to counteract all the harmful propaganda injected into our heads in the name of entertainment. Olech writes,

According to Cancer Research UK, watching any food content makes children (and adults alike) feel hungry, pushing them to snack between mealtimes. It usually also impacts their food preferences, as marketing teams spend a lot of time and money making their products look delicious on screen.

To make sure the point gets made, Olech lists all the many and varied ill effects to which the marketing of junk food to kids can indirectly lead, including but not limited to:

[…] kidney diseases, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, malnutirtion, obesity, low self-esteem, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, bone issues, low immunity, concentration problems, depression and mood swings, eating disorders, poor brain development, tooth decay…

Of course, the beguiling shills and the corporations that pay them never set out with the intention of making every kid on the planet obese. They are just trying to raise a new generation of consumers, that’s all.

Just a short little digressive item to think about

One of the things that advertising sells is the credo that sports and junk food must go together, whether in person or while viewing electronically. Olech writes,

Another issue with junk food marketing in the US is the misinformation present in a lot of ads. Many companies use celebrity or athlete endorsements, perpetuating the idea that their products are healthier than they are. They also normalize consuming higher amounts of junk food while watching sports or TV, further contributing to the growing obesity pandemic.

Currently, a sports book website called FanDuel builds its commercials around the slogan, “Every night is a watch party!” which tidily encompasses seven evenings of three distinct potential addiction opportunities. You got the booze, you got the junk food, and you got the gambling. How did this racket slip past the War on Drugs?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,” CyberGhostVPN.com, 02/13/24
Image by Francisco Orsorio/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Study Confirms Genetic Link in BMI As Global Obesity Reaches Alarming Levels

A new study presented at the European Congress on Obesity suggests that middle-aged people are significantly more likely to become obese if one or both of their parents were overweight during that life stage. The research, led by Mari Mikkelsen from the Arctic University of Norway, analyzed data from over 2,000 parent-offspring pairs participating in the Tromso Study.

Study’s main points

Key findings of the study include:

  • Offspring BMI was directly influenced by their parents’ BMI.
  • A mother’s obesity increased the risk of middle-aged obesity by 3.4 times, while an obese father raised the risk by 3.7 times.
  • If both parents were obese, the likelihood of middle-aged obesity was six times higher.

More than just genetics

Mikkelsen explained the reason behind the study and commented on its main finding:

Obesity in childhood, and especially in adolescence, tends to follow the individual into early adulthood, and so we suspected it would also follow them into middle age… We found that this is indeed the case — children whose parents lived with obesity are much more likely to be in living with obesity themselves when they are in their 40s and 50s, long after they have left home.

Most likely, a combination of genetics and environment causes a parent’s weight to affect the subsequent weight of their kids, Mikkelsen said:

Genes play an important role by affecting our susceptibility to weight gain and influence how we respond to obesogenic environments in which it can be easy to eat unhealthily… Some studies also speculate that children tend to develop similar dietary and exercise habits to their parents when they all live together under the same roof, resulting in a similar BMI status.

WHO releases update on obesity and overweight numbers

In other news, the World Health Organization (WHO) just updated its statistics and initiatives status for March 2024. Here are some troubling facts:

In 2022, global rates of obesity and overweight reached alarming levels:

  • 1 in 8 people worldwide were living with obesity, with adult obesity doubling since 1990 and adolescent obesity quadrupling.
  • 5 billion adults were overweight, with 890 million of them living with obesity. This represented 43% of adults globally, with significant regional variations.
  • 37 million children under 5 and over 390 million aged 5-19 were overweight, with prevalence increasing particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents has risen dramatically since 1990, affecting 20% of this age group globally by 2022.

As a reminder, the definition of overweight and obesity varies by age and gender, with specific criteria provided by the WHO for children under 5 and children aged 5-19. Another reminder is the numbers above, that more research, an organized approach, and more involvement from all levels (from home to medical professionals and government organizations) are needed. We must keep fighting the fight.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Obesity and overweight,” WHO, March 2024
Source: Odds of obesity derived from parents, study finds,” UPI.com, 3/8/24
Image by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Sometimes You Don’t Know What to Think

For anyone who wonders exactly how many pediatric patients were prescribed weight-loss drugs in 2023, the headline “Doctors Gave 4,000 Kids Weight-Loss Drugs In 2023” might seem to promise an answer, but similar to many headlines, it leaves out an essential fact. Are these 4,000 kids in the USA, the Northern Hemisphere, the membership of the World Health Organization, or what? (Presumably, it is inside the United States, and in reference to research published in January of this year.)

In the same article, journalist Julianna Frieman names Dr. Joan Han of the Mt. Sinai Health System as an endorser of the idea that “changing one’s lifestyle is often fruitless in fixing obesity due to the significant role of genetics.” Like so many other obesity-related topics, that one has large numbers of both supporters and detractors.

Dr. Han gives a rationale that is often heard from others of the same mindset, especially when they have additional reasons to favor bariatric surgery or a pharmaceutical solution:

It would make sense that sheer willpower is not necessarily going to fix excess weight gain.

Here’s the problem. It may be a Straw Man or it may be Begging the Question, but that statement involves a fallacious premise, namely, that there is only one other possible answer besides drugs or surgery, which would be the Sheer Willpower Cure. If that were the case, it would be reasonable to concede, “That’s right. The Sheer Willpower Cure does not seem to be effective.” But that is not the case at all. Exploring a program like BrainWeighve, for instance, reveals that it suggests and facilitates many additional choices besides Sheer Willpower.

Contemporary relevance

However, the reason for bringing it up now is that it relates to the general question of how and why the “trendy” GLP-1 drugs are prescribed. The reasons are many, and the attempts to make them stand are sometimes less than scholarly and far from impartial. But other times, one has to ask oneself, “What’s wrong with that?”

As an example of the genre, and the sometimes very positive reports, semaglutide is credited with the ability to reduce cardiovascular risks in a particular subgroup:

It is the first such approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a weight loss drug. The approval comes after a five-year study found Wegovy led to a 20% reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and cardiac arrest…

Granted, this is only in one patient demographic, “obese patients over the age of 45 who have heart disease,” but still…

Other suggestions

Only a couple of weeks ago, Dennis Thompson reported on the British initiative to encourage more movement among school-age children. The Active Movement program requires no fancy equipment, gym attire, or specialized environment. It encourages the kids to stand up when speaking, and walk around in the classroom more. Somehow, overall, it encourages 10% more participation in voluntary sports activities and an 8% reduction in the children’s waist-to-height ratio.

Not only that, but senior researcher Mike Loosemore is quoted as saying:

Our results show that reducing sedentary behaviors during school time can be an effective obesity-reduction strategy for primary school children who are overweight. What’s even more encouraging is that this method was effective regardless of the child’s socioeconomic status, age or gender. It is something that schools could introduce without needing to invest heavily in equipment or staff, and everyone will benefit.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Doctors Gave 4,000 Kids Weight-Loss Drugs In 2023,” DailyCaller.com, 02/21/24
Source: “United States of Ozempic: Where anti-obesity drugs are taking off,” Axios.com, 01/18/24
Source: “FDA approves weight-loss drug Wegovy for reducing cardiovascular risks,” Join1440.com, 03/09/24
Source: “One Way to Reduce Child Obesity: Get Kids Moving More in Class,” USNews.com, 02/27/24
Image by John K. Thorne/Public Domain

Tempest in a Very Large Teapot

The huge story of the past year has been the explosion in the use of a whole new genre of weight-loss drugs. Like any such gigantic, all-encompassing development, this one has brought innumerable minor stories in its wake. One such side-piece is the voluntary demotion of superstar Oprah Winfrey from her almost decade-long seat as a Weight Watchers board member. Rather than replace her, the board will reduce its membership to nine seats.

The talk-show star was elected to office in 2015 but will not be running again this May. She has owned a massive amount of WeightWatchers stock, the value of which has fluctuated over the years. Variety says, “Her initial investment for 6.4 million shares of the company totaled $43.2 million.” A few years later, all the new weight-loss drugs showed up on the market, and many investors took their dollars elsewhere. And then, last week, the announcement of her departure from the board caused the stock price to decrease by more than 20%.

According to Variety,

Winfrey owns about 1.1 million shares of WW International, representing a 1.43% stake in the company, according to data provider FactSet. At the current stock price, that’s worth less than $3.5 million.

These remaining shares and all future income from them are being donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is said that Winfrey will continue to work hand-in-hand with WeightWatchers in “elevating the conversation around recognizing obesity as a chronic condition, working to reduce stigma, and advocating for health equity.” The announcement was made in December via People magazine, “after coming to the realization that weight management does not hinge solely on a person’s self-control.”


In every report of this story, statements are made that do not clarify but confuse the issue. On one hand, it seems as if Winfrey’s personal decision, some months ago, to start taking a weight-loss drug is looked upon as treachery. It is said that in seeking and accepting a leadership position, she had undertaken to “not engage in any other weight loss or weight management business, program, products or services.”

So, were people angry because she started injecting herself with one of the new drugs? That would be understandable. But there is more information to assimilate:

Last year, Weight Watchers acquired Sequence, a subscription telehealth platform that offers, among other benefits, access to healthcare providers who can prescribe weight-loss drugs including Ozempic, for $106 million. (Users pay $99 a month, not including prescription costs.)

For NPR, Vanessa Romo wrote,

The move to embrace the drugs as part of its weight management program is a massive shift for the company’s behavior-based program. For 60 years, WeightWatchers coaches have told members that the path to a thinner, healthier version of themselves consisted of exercise, counting calories, points — and, perhaps most of all, willpower.

How can this seeming contradiction be reconciled? Romo says, “That reversal has left many current and former members struggling with their own weight feeling betrayed.” It would seem that, if such were the case, having a prominent authority like Winfrey tell them that drugs are okay would eliminate the conflict.

WeightWatchers announced that Winfrey’s decision not to run for the position “was not the result of any disagreement with the company on any matter relating to the company’s operations, policies or practices.” That seems clear enough, because the company is now in the business of hooking up customers with doctors who will prescribe, and sources that will supply the GLP-1 medications.

Yet somehow, there was perceived to be a conflict of interest if a WeightWatchers board member, and owner of a large amount of stock, happened to personally use a weight-loss drug. According to The New York Times,

Kelsey Merkel, a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, said that Ms. Winfrey wanted to “advocate authentically” for the weight-loss measures she believed to be most effective, without anyone questioning her profit motive.

Meanwhile, it appears that what faithful members regret most is not the former drugless approach, but the fellowship and sense of community provided by live gatherings in real time. The entire huge Weight Watchers International organization started as a meeting of seven people in a housewife’s basement.

Says The New York Times, “Before the pandemic there were 3,300 in-person workshops throughout the United States.” The COVID crisis spurred “premium members” to pay close to $50 per month for “unlimited access to virtual meetings and other digital tools.”

Really feeling slighted are the so-called lifetime members, “who are rewarded with free access to premium-tier benefits if they stay within two pounds of their goal weight — but who must weigh in at an official workshop at least once a month.” Now, there are fewer than 1,000 local workshops, and even some of those are online.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Oprah Winfrey to Exit WeightWatchers Board After She Announced Use of Weight-Loss Drug,” Variety.com, 02/29/24
Source: “Oprah to Leave Weight Watchers Board,” NYTimes.com, 02/29/24
Source: “After nearly a decade, Oprah Winfrey is set to depart the board of WeightWatchers,” NPR.org, 03/01/24
Source: “When WeightWatchers Ended In-Person Meetings, They Held Their Own,” NYTimes.com, 02/02/24
Image by Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0 DEED

BPA Study Finds Different Gut Microbiota’s Response Based on BMI

Children with normal weight seem to have a different gut microbiota response to endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A (BPA) compared to those with overweight or obesity, one study finds. Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used in various plastic products, is known to disrupt hormone functions in the body and may affect human health. The study, published in mSystems, found differences in microbial communities between normal-weight children and those who were overweight or obese after BPA exposure.

Margarita Aguilera, Ph.D., a microbiologist at the University of Granada in Spain, said:

We found that the gut microbial community responds differently to BPA exposure depending on the BMI (body-mass index) of the individual.

Specifically, children with normal weight hosted more diverse bacteria and showed greater resilience to BPA. Research from the University of Granada suggests that BPA exposure can lead to distinct microbial communities in normal-weight children compared to their overweight or obese counterparts.

BPA is increasingly present in human samples, indicating potential accumulation in the body. Moreover, there’s a growing body of evidence linking xenobiotics like BPA to obesity, especially when exposure occurs early in life.

The study aimed to evaluate how BPA affects gut microbiota in relation to childhood obesity and whether certain bacteria could serve as biomarkers for BPA exposure. Fecal samples from 106 children aged 5 to 10 were analyzed, revealing that BPA exposure led to specific microbial changes.

Certain bacterial species, such as Clostridium and Romboutsia, showed resistance to BPA and were positively associated with microbiota richness. On the other hand, other species were inversely correlated with gut diversity, potentially indicating an obesogenic phenotype.

Children with normal weight exhibited a more enriched and connected gut microbiome network compared to those with overweight or obesity, suggesting greater resilience to the effects of BPA. This finding underscores the importance of understanding the relationship between BPA, obesity, and gut microbiota for informing interventions and policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity risk.

Dr. Aguilera said:

We want to raise awareness about the health risks associated with microplastics that enter our bodies, and those that circulate in the environment… It’s crucial for individuals to be mindful of these concerns.

However, the study’s use of 16S rRNA gene sequencing limited taxonomy resolution, and further research is needed to fully elucidate the relationship between BPA-tolerant gut bacteria and obesity. Nonetheless, the findings highlight the need for awareness of the health risks associated with environmental toxins like BPA and microplastics.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Environmental Toxin BPA Affects Gut Microbial Communities in Children,” Pharmacy Times, 3/5/24
Source: “BPA exposure linked to gut microbiota, childhood obesity in new study,” EurikAlert, 3/1/24
“BPA exposure influences gut microbial diversity and childhood obesity risk,” News Medical, 3/1/24
Image by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

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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.

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