Christmas in the Face of Obesity


Culturally sensitive disclaimer: Whenever the word “Christmas” occurs here, please feel free to mentally substitute any holiday of your choice — because this is exactly the point. Cultures and religions have their festive holidays, the times for gathering the family and fostering the feeling of universal good will. The conditions and problems that come along with major holidays are obstacles for everybody, and the issues around food are practically inescapable.

The feast is one of the oldest human institutions, and it’s a beautiful thing. People get together and compete to be the most generous in supplying wonderful delicacies to eat and drink. Hosts go to great lengths to procure special ingredients, and guests outdo each other in bringing exotic treats. So for the next couple of days, let’s talk about Christmas while there is still time.

Parents, if your local school has some kind of participatory holiday system, please check carefully before bringing in goodies, and cooperate with whatever rules are laid down. Aside from sugar overload, allergies must be considered, along with a slew of other factors. The last thing a school needs is a lawsuit.


News comes from Taiwan (the Republic of China) that the Ministry of Education has directed elementary schools not to give students candy or sugary drinks as part of their Christmas observances. The story includes details about the reaction from Taipei Mandarin Experimental Elementary School, where “principal Yang Mei-ling said that while obesity was an issue, food safety was also a factor in the school’s decision to give other stuff instead of candies for the holiday.”

The head of Taiwan’s National Alliance of Parents announced that while the school system’s concern with student health is praiseworthy, many children look forward to receiving candy from school at Christmas. But this is the kind of custom that can be changed with little damage to the fabric of a society, and in a few years everyone will forget that it was ever different. After all, it hasn’t been that long since passengers were allowed to smoke on commercial airlines. Today the very idea is outlandish. Taiwan’s National Federation of Teachers Unions took a middle ground and said through its president that “the notice from the ministry was just a reminder to try to keep children from being addicted to sweets, but that the occasional sweet over Christmas would not hurt anyone.”

The interesting thing about that quotation is the phrase “addicted to sweets.” The struggle to implant the idea that food substances can be as addictive as alcohol or hard drugs has been a long one, but suddenly references to food addiction seem to be everywhere, almost as if it’s a long-accepted and never-contested idea.

The Weigh2Rock Kids

When kids and teens articulate their misery, one heartbreaking aspect is the unhappiness of going out into society on special occasions. Here are a couple of excerpts from Dr. Pretlow’s book, Overweight: What Kids Say.

Emily, Age 11
…what happens when you have one of those school valentine parties, or christmas parties? I want to eat all the sweets, and junk food, but then I can’t stop the next day, and the next day, and the next day! I just completely get thrown out of wack and gane EVERYTHING back!

Flower Fawn, Age 15
I just want to be able to relax and have fun without having to worry about my appearance. I really want to be 165 by December so that I can go to holiday mixers and my school’s Christmas dance looking better than I did …

Childhood Obesity News does not hype any particular product, but the communications made by kids themselves via Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website make it clear that many have found Dance Dance Revolution a thrilling Christmas gift. More information on that subject can be found at the Teens Bulletin Board. Who knows, DDR might be old hat by now. But there is bound to be some form of active, exercise-encouraging video game your kids would like, and the idea is worth investigating.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Sweets ban for Christmas draws mixed reactions,”, 12/10/13
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,”
Image by Magnus D


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

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.

Food & Health Resources