A Winter Holidays Encyclopedia — 4

Please check out the Childhood Obesity News archives for helpful hints. The following remarks are not excerpts, but elaborations and explications meant to lure visitors to the original posts.

Jingle Bell Blues

We love to give and receive gifts, and to see relatives who travel from afar. We love our family members, and we love getting together, so why do holiday gatherings so often turn out to be grim ordeals? One of the things we look forward to at holiday time is the reviving of fond memories, through photos and videos and personal stories.

But underlying everything are layers of ancestral memory accumulated over decades, or even through hundreds of years. Are there customs or habits that should be abandoned? How much are we obliged to cling to the past? Is it possible to do things just a little bit differently, and achieve a more pleasant outcome?

Keeping Our Cool Over Winter Holidays

How many people greet the winter holidays with a sense of dread? The answer is many. We have to live up to so many expectations: hospitality; financial responsibility; thoughtful and appropriate gift-giving; travel arrangements for guests; providing delicious meals and seasonal delicacies while not poisoning anyone… It’s a lot.

The psychological burdens are many. Demanding folks have to be shown the respect and deference to which they feel entitled. Amateur comedians need to be reassured that they haven’t lost their touch. To preserve privacy, certain things that we have been told in confidence must be tactfully kept from certain people. Anyone who thinks about it for a minute can provide at least several more mental health crises they have experienced between October and February.

But wait, it gets worse… or better…

Add to that the monumental challenges faced by individuals who struggle against substance use disorders, whether the substance be tobacco, alcohol, food, or other. For people who are trying to reset their bodily systems, an ordinary Tuesday can be an epic battle that uses up every ounce of determination. Once the holidays roll around, the normal trauma level is amped up by several orders of magnitude.

We need to take special care of ourselves, and of the people whose footing on sobriety or reasonable eating, or whatever, is unsteady. In fact, it never hurts to just go ahead and be especially considerate to everybody, because who knows what inner sorrow or fear or downfall they might be dealing with? Just because they don’t talk about it does not mean it isn’t there, lurking in the background. And guess what — everybody has some kind of Achilles Heel. For far too many of us, that vulnerable spot is our relationship with food.

If you find even one idea that can change the compulsive eating dynamic which seems to rule the holiday season, that’s a plus. If you find several, that’s a bonanza!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Wendy Harman/CC BY 2.0

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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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