Season of Challenge


If this is such a wonderful time of year, why do people suffer astronomical levels of anxiety around it? We tend to think first of the lonely, isolated folks who have no one to celebrate with, or even just be with, and, of course, that happens, too. But in terms of traumatic stress, wasting a special day in the wrong environment can be just as unpleasant.

One person’s obstacle might be the mandatory time spent with bosses and co-workers, rather than home with the family. But the person next door might long to escape the family scene and hang out with work friends. It doesn’t matter — stress is stress.

A newsletter from Dr. John Agwunobi, head of Herbalife Nutrition, arrived with some useful ideas that spark memories of past years and inspire new empathy for people who face what they can’t help thinking of as an ordeal, for one reason or another. It could be the fear of losing all restraint, and gaining 20 pounds. Skipping a meal, or meals, to prepare for an evening feast can backfire in various ways, including a tendency to grossly overeat at the event itself.

Dr. Agwunobi warns of the futility of trying to “save up” stomach space for a big feast. In fact, he takes the opposite route and recommends a snack rich in protein, to take the edge off hunger, before going to a party. He also recommends perpetual motion:

Keep walking around and don’t park next to the chips and dips. Walking counts as exercise, so the more you move the better. Let loose and dance off the party calories; the extra bonus is that the more time you spend dancing the less time you will spend eating.

Too often, the most dreaded aspect of the holiday social scene is forced association with someone it would have been perfectly fine never to see again. One school of thought believes that this 2016 season will be especially difficult in that sense. Occasionally, life gives us the chance to observe an expert in evasion, who demonstrates how to make escaping from a houseful of people into an art form.

Positive plotting

Helpfulness is a marvelous way to avoid a family party fraught with potential confrontations. Volunteer to walk the family dog. Did Aunt Louise forget to buy nutmeg? No problem. A drive to the grocery store is a chance to both be a hero, and make a temporary escape. Or maybe a cousin will sustain a minor wound that requires a trip to the emergency medical facility, and you can both get out of there for a while.

Returning to Dr. Agwunobi, he recommends working out regularly to avoid stress and the consequent emotional eating. This leads to a different tangent, to Joe Rogan, who once said, “I don’t like me when I don’t work out, so I make me work out so I can be sane.”

Another fitness buff, talking about his family relationships, said, “I don’t work out for me, I work out for them.” In other words, the mental and emotional benefits of being in peak health can make it easier to be the kind of person he wants to be in the family setting.

No doubt a thousand others have expressed the same basic thought in different ways. Anyone who faces a potentially difficult or explosive family gathering over the holidays can prepare with a kind of training program, arriving at the crucial event as well-rested, thoroughly exercised and optimally nourished as possible. Readiness just might circumvent the desire to disappear under a bushel of food and a gallon of drink.

And watch out for those drinks, Dr. Agwunobi warns. Celebratory tipples, whether alcohol-based or not, can hide an astonishing amount of sugar. Consider alternating with sparkling water.

The winter holidays would be incomplete without advice on how to survive them. Readers are encouraged to stroll down memory lane with some past Childhood Obesity News posts whose suggestions are equally valid right now. There are ideas for grownups, for kids, and for grownups who hope to guide kids on a healthy path.

Holidays and Childhood Obesity
A Holiday Reminder
Obesity, the Holidays, and Fitting In
Escaping Winter Holiday Hell
All Hail the Lord of Misrule

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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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