Two More Brands of Seasonal Distress

Regardless of how many people want to pretend otherwise, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. It’s not the once-pandemic or the former pandemic. It walks among us, sometimes disguised as our nearest and dearest. Which is why, for Woman’s Day, Alesandra Dubin quoted Dr. Caroline Leaf on preparing a family safety plan for the holidays:

It’s best to take as many precautions as possible when planning family and friend gatherings this holiday season. As different people face different risks and have different risk tolerances, I would recommend discussing your holiday plans with your loved ones as soon as possible to avoid extra tension…

Regarding social events, people would do well to think about adequate ventilation and air filtration. Is there a porch or patio or backyard where fresh air circulates freely? A host might want to lay in a supply of masks, plain or holiday-themed, and will surely provide hand sanitizer and plenty of paper towels. A guest might consider bringing along a few extra masks to share.


What segue could be smoother than the transition between COVID and grief? An awful lot of living people have lost relatives and friends. The tendency to overeat in the hope of achieving comfort is so common that the German language invented a word for it, Frustfressen, or frustration eating. There is also a word for the pounds acquired — Kummerspeck, or grief bacon. As we have seen, obese people are more susceptible to the virus and more difficult to treat. The virus not only kills people, it sets up a chain reaction designed to provide itself with more ripe victims.

Over the past months, the world has learned that children can catch COVID, as can healthy adults with no underlying conditions. Children have been orphaned and left with nobody really paying attention to what or how much they eat. The often-quoted Jessica Maharaj addressed the issue of grief over the holidays:

The anticipation of sadness may be stressful, but the holidays provide an opportunity for healing.

It is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and work through them, rather than suppressing them.

Don’t search for solace in unhealthy foods or alcohol.

Keep in mind that the loved ones you lost would want you to remember them fondly, to enjoy the holiday season, and to find comfort in having the family come together.

Some families routinely view old videos or even older photo albums, replete with reminders of relatives and friends who have passed away. Even without specific visual reminders, people tend to think back on the gatherings of former years, and feel the absence of the missing. When any type of mental illness is present in a family or friend group, coping can be even more difficult for everybody.

Maharaj urges us to accept our feelings, resist pressure to partake in traditions that bring pain, and look for and appreciate the good moments. Above all, as a solid base for everything else, we need to practice responsible self-care. Especially, we must be careful not to use the holidays as an excuse to break from helpful routines like taking supplements or doing a daily run. Needless to say, any measures recommended to people with particularly challenging situations can also be very helpful to those of us with just “routine” holiday stress.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “40 Easy Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas,”, 09/20/21
Source: “Avoiding Holiday Stressors,”, 12/03/18
Image by Ron Frazier/CC BY 2.0

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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.

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