‘Tis the Season to be Traumatized

For an obese child, the holidays are when relatives who haven’t seen you all year say, “My goodness, how you have grown!” or worse. In some cases, much worse. People give you the wrong size clothes and insist you try them on, which you don’t want to do because you already know the item is too small, and besides, it’s not one of your colors.

Holidays are when people insist that you eat something, or too much of it, because otherwise, someone’s feelings will be hurt. As seen in this and many other examples, emotional blackmail is a seasonal specialty. Some types of abusive relationships thrive in the atmosphere of a holiday gathering, especially with the “social lubricant” of alcohol involved.

The emotionally abusive person takes advantage of the permissiveness of a celebratory atmosphere. A lot of cruelty is shrugged off as “just kidding around.” A lot of kids are told to not be such a sissy.

Unaggressive people are expected to be good sports, and go along with being ridiculed and mocked in the name of harmless fun. The victim is expected to cheerfully cooperate, or be scorned as a Debbie or Dougie Downer. These are some of the many reasons why experts increasingly realize the importance of psychological therapy in the prevention and treatment of obesity.

Rebellion against the status quo

Holiday feasts are total enablement festivals. Everyone is encouraged to violate their limits. “One piece of pie won’t kill you.”

“You may be right, but my not having it won’t kill you, either, so why don’t you just mind your own business?” Many readers of this page have known a 14-year-old who would say that, or at least would very much want to. Some can remember being that teenager. One or two might wish that their own mother, who was embarrassed about her weight, could have summoned up the backbone to say it to someone at the holiday dinner.

For anyone with a bona fide addiction, the holidays can be a chamber of horrors.

Here is an experiment to try over the holidays. Just monitor yourself for two things. First, if you find yourself about to say to someone else, “Have another drink” or “Have another candy cane,” don’t.

And any time you catch yourself rationalizing, “Oh why not have another drink or another candy cane? After all, it’s the holidays.” Give yourself the gift of deciding not to.

We have of course mentioned Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, where responses from thousands of kids informed his book, Overweight: What Kids Say. Holidays are one of the many subjects discussed in those locations. Let’s face it, for some people, having a less social holiday season this year could be a much-needed respite.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Maria Eklind/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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.

Food & Health Resources