Christmas Self-Defense

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In a Forbes article a few weeks back, Kate Harrison made a cogent point: “Halloween is our annual free-for-all, but what starts as a one-night binge can quickly stretch out into months of sugar overload.”

For a lot of Americans, it’s all too true. Even someone who has been pretty careful the rest of the year, and maybe even made real progress toward weight that matches up with height, is likely to slip and fall once Halloween rolls around. For many people, it’s like an unconscious signal — “Okay, from here until January 1, all bets are off!” Some impulse tells us it’s acceptable to slip the leash and go crazy for two months, which is an entire one-sixth of the year.

Toward the end of next October, it is something to really be conscious of and look out for. Speaking of Halloween, remember the North Dakota woman who made news with her trick-or-treat letter informing parents that their children were moderately obese and should not consume sugar?

What if Santa Claus adopted a similar stance and left admonitory notes in Christmas stockings? Really, could Santa slip into a stocking anything related to weight reduction that would not create bad feeling? Even a gift certificate for gym membership could be taken the wrong way, like giving someone a stick of underarm deodorant. The relationship might never be the same.

Merry Christmas, now shut up

For many people, the best Christmas gift of all would be a universal moratorium on weight talk. This is one reason why people sometimes don’t enjoy family dinners. A relative who thinks she’s being humorous just has to say, “This will go straight to my hips!” with every bite she puts in her mouth. You want to stuff her into the big freezer out in the garage. But all you can do is remind yourself never to commit this very unattractive conversational faux pas.

So here we are in the midst of the food blizzard that occurs between Halloween and New Year. Available edibles are fancier and sweeter than usual. Snacks are plentiful, and it would be a shame to hurt anyone’s feelings by not sampling the cranberry mousse. At a social event, it’s so easy to nosh away and make a couple of pounds of chocolate-covered pretzels disappear. As Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website tells kids:

Society normalizes overeating during the holidays with a huge emphasis on food, and even marketing certain comfort foods. During the holidays, food is used to demonstrate warm loving family times in advertising, and many kids and teens report eating for comfort during this often stressful time. Many adults do that too.

As if the temptations of the holiday were not already driving you bananas, then the advertising comes at you, with examples of oversell as gross as the one Dr. Pretlow loves to cite, the McDonald’s pitch to partake of the “Comfort and Joy” of chicken nuggets. We need to be hyper-alert and not let the propaganda suck us in.

Start each day with a solid breakfast of things it’s actually beneficial to eat. At least lay down some kind of a base for all the other stuff to land on. Don’t let yourself fall for the “I’ll turn things around for the new year” scam. That is such an easy way to justify falling off the wagon. And check out the page on Dr. Pretlow’s site titled “How to Deal With Holiday Eating,” for many helpful ideas.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Can You Buy Back Childhood Obesity?”, 11/03/2013
Source: “North Dakota woman’s letter to obese children’s parents drawing controversy,”, 10/30/13
Image by CocaCola (historical)

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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