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Parenting with PACEs. PACEs science & stories. Trauma-informed change.

Life-saving or stigmatizing? Parents wrestle with obesity treatment options for kids (


Image: Janice Chang for NPR

To read more of Yuki Noguchi's article, please click here.

Two mothers — Jen McLellan in Albuquerque, N.M., and Grace, of Bethesda, Md. — haven't met, but they share a common childhood trauma: Both came of age in the 1980s and '90s feeling burdened by shame and stigma over their body size. Both tried every known diet plan and pill available at the time, only to have doctor after doctor admonish them to restrict calories and exercise still more.

Since then, scientific understanding of obesity has transformed; doctors now consider it a disease driven by genetics, the brain and other organs, as well as by environmental or psychosocial factors. Studies have also confirmed what both women suspected all along: Diets usually do not result in long-term weight loss because food and exercise account for only some part of the puzzle.

Both women felt duped and overlooked by doctors who — mistakenly, it turns out — viewed obesity as a lack of willpower.

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