I am a retired pediatrician.
I can vividly remember one afternoon ten years ago when three teenage boys came to see me who each weighed more than the scale could measure! That’s greater than 300 lbs (almost 140 kg).
The third boy had come in for a sore throat and his weight had jumped by over 10 pounds (~4.5 kilos) from his visit two weeks before when he was seen for a regular checkup. His mother warned me from the beginning of the visit that they were there only for the sore throat and that I BETTER NOT discuss his weight or weight increase.
I first took care of his sore throat, but before they left my office, I explained to them that it would have been negligent on my part to not call attention to his weight increase. I know she didn’t want to hear it again, but I feared that she was exactly the kind of patient who would have sued me for not warning her of the dangers that he would experience in the future.
And I was certain to document everything in the medical record that I discussed!
Yes, it was extremely frustrating!
Before I finished writing this post, I was worried that I would be accused of “body-shaming” because I expressed my frustration about treating childhood obesity. In fact, I believe that I am very understanding of those children and adults whose lives are adversely affected by obesity.
Since the Pandemic began, it was clear that obesity, along with the often co-existing problems of diabetes and hypertension, was the number one risk factor if you contracted COVID-19. You would have thought that the CDC and the medical establishment promoting COVID vaccination would have taken the opportunity to change the course of people’s lives by emphasizing healthier eating patterns. I’m still waiting for someone to stand up and make this the most important priority for the future of our world’s health, not just during the Pandemic. If we don’t get the epidemic of obesity under control, we will have to prepare ourselves for decreasing life expectancy in succeeding generations.
The campaign for healthier eating needs to start early in childhood, but it requires the parents’ acceptance and involvement. If parents are not willing to listen to their pediatricians’ advice and react defensively, we will never win this battle. I accept the fact that changing one’s habits is a very difficult task. However, if our society doesn’t approach this problem head-on with honesty, courage and dedication, we will be facing a greater “existential threat” than anyone would have imagined.