A Problematic Holiday for Childhood Obesity

Halloween pumpkin

Dr. Pretlow would very much like to see a new, improved Halloween, because the way things are now, it’s all about sabotage. Even kids who have stayed pretty close to the healthful eating path the rest of the year have trouble keeping their behavior in line with their intentions when October 31 rolls around.

We have said this before, but it’s worth repeating: The polls conducted by Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website have confirmed that Halloween is one of the worst days of the year. For kids whose biggest problem foods are chocolate and other varieties of candy, it can be a disaster.

A typical response, found in Overweight: What Kids Say, was from 17-year-old Caragh, whose efforts had started when she reached 181 pounds. At the time of writing, she weighed 175 and desired to reach the goal of 147. This is what she said:

I hate Halloween… I really fell off the wagon, and I’m scared to weigh myself because I’m sure I’ve gained a pound or two… I had a goal to lose at least seven pounds by my birthday in ten days because my friend is taking me to his prom then, but I’m so mad at myself for undoing my hard work and I feel like I’m not going to make that goal by then 🙁 🙁 I feel like I can’t get back on track now.

Halloween is the kickoff for the four great eating festivals, all clustered together. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, there might still be some Halloween candies ratting around in a drawer. Then it’s Christmas and New Year, and next thing you know, last year’s clothes don’t fit and it’s not just because of normal growth.

Last year, we learned about Jill Escher’s establishment of Sugar Addiction Awareness Day. Another post in our previous Halloween collection is “Halloween Proximity Alert: It’s a Childhood Obesity Issue.” One called “Allergies, Addiction, Childhood Obesity, and Halloween: All Scary” explored some of the larger issues and more far-reaching implications. Then, there was “Will Childhood Obesity Kill Halloween?” — and we bet you can guess what answer we’re looking for — yes!

Just kidding. It’s a fun holiday with a lot of potential for creativity, and rather than kill it, Childhood Obesity News would like to change it. Last time, we passed along some ideas about how to do it differently, in the name of childhood obesity prevention. The best-case scenario would be to create a Halloween that didn’t even involve sweets. But sometimes it can’t be helped.

And what about that sackful of candy? Halloween can be tricky. It’s easy for parents to fool themselves into thinking, “It’s only one day a year.” But no. There might be a whole series of parties — school, church, neighborhood, friends — and the amount of candy received can be around for many days. Sometimes, kids will end up eating candy they don’t even like, just because it’s there. With some kids, it’s possible to get them to separate the favorite kinds from the not-so-favorites, and make the rejects quietly disappear. A parent can offer some other prize, in trade for the less desirable kinds, and then get rid of the junk.

One expert advises rationing Halloween treats over a few weeks, only putting a piece or two in the school lunch bag or doling out a piece or two after school every day. Another person who wants to be helpful suggests donating part of the candy collection to a social agency that serves children. But then, a thoughtful child might ask, “If it’s not good for me, why would I give it to somebody else?” Good question.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Image by lju photo.

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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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