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By Matt Stone

Recently I had an interview tentatively set up on the topic of childhood obesity.  As soon as I knew about the interview I started thinking about what I wanted to say and got really excited.  Then the interview got canceled.  Well, I had too much that I wanted to say floating around in my head to just let it die.  Below is a faux interview on the topic.  For those that don’t have the time to listen, some of the main points covered are….

  • Most factors that control a person’s susceptibility to store excess fat when entering into the modern environment is set in motion during the first few years of life and BEFORE life.  Most think purely in terms of genetics, but I’ve always thought of genetics as a misleading term, because there is a great deal that we inherit that has nothing to do with genes per se in the classical sense.  For example, there are epigenetic triggers that turn certain genes on and off, and events that took place up to 100 years before your birth impact your tendencies.  We also know that dieting during labor increases a child’s chances of developing obesity.  We know that hormones that a child is exposed to in the womb because of the hormonal state of the mother have a big influence over one’s propensity to develop obesity in childhood.  And we know that how long a child is breastfed among other things in the early developmental period establish key predictors of future weight gain, such as size and quantity of fat cells, metabolic rate, and so forth.  We also know that the amount of unsaturated fat in a mother’s tissues and breast milk is a primary determinant of the two biggest risk factors for obesity known – increases number and size of fat cells. Read this study on it HERE.
  • Childhood obesity isn’t just a matter of diet.  We know that there has been a significant drop in the number of hours of sleep children and adults get over the past century or so.  Lack of sleep is enough to induce metabolic changes indicative of metabolic syndrome in just a few days if the sleep loss is great enough.
  • Number of hours of watching television and having a television in the bedroom seem to be prominent lifestyle risk factors for obesity.  Television, video games, internet, and other modern inventions create a lot of interference with our natural desires to engage in physical activity.
  • Children often become overly fixated on food due to the excitement generated by the parents and television, as well as the fact that many in the modern world have very little to be stimulated by other than food.
  • The primary prevention strategy that I propose is having parents do everything they can to shut down fat storage mechanisms in themselves – basically doing something similar to what is laid out in Diet Recovery prior to conception and during pregnancy, as well as breastfeeding for as long as is realistic for the mother.  24 months would be ideal.  As the child develops, allow self-regulation of food intake with little psychological interference about eating, as restrained and restricted eating is a known causal factor in the development of obesity, and those with higher intuitive eating profiles tend to have lower BMI’s.
  • If a child has already developed obesity, the best you can realistically hope to do as a parent is to rehabilitate a child’s relationship with food, electronic devices, etc., while providing forms of stimulation to substitute for food and glowing screens.