A Winter Holidays Encyclopedia — 11

Over most of the globe, among societies that may differ greatly, people gather with family, friends, and business associates to celebrate important holidays with communal feasting. There is no stopping them, or probably even no slowing them down, because partiers are not worrying about diabetes or premature death from an obesity-related co-morbidity. The Childhood Obesity News post “Visions of Sugarplums” outlined a few thoughts about what we can or should expect from schools and businesses, in the way of holiday damage control.

The piece titled “The Symbolic Eating Peril” goes deep into the concept of compulsion and explores the idea that emotional eating, despite showing up in many varieties, is not a discrete condition but an indication of more extensive problems. That post also discussed Dr. Billi Gordon, an expert on out-of-control eating connected with holiday-related emotional abuse. He probably went more deeply than anybody into this specialized topic.

Kindness is the best gift

At family holiday gatherings a lot of adults, for some reason, feel absolutely obligated to remark on a child’s growth since the last meeting. If you are one of these, consider giving it a rest this year and every year going forward. Nobody, young or old, needs to hear your take on their waistline expansion. No, not even in an allegedly humorous context. If a snarky and supposedly humorous remark about someone’s weight is your go-to move, consider preparing some new material this year. One person’s “just kidding, good, clean fun” can be another person’s trauma. Suggestion: Bring a yo-yo or something, and get attention with that instead.

And let’s remember: As horrific as a holiday gathering can seem even to an emotionally healthy person, for someone struggling with a serious issue it can be a nightmare. It’s really not cool to shame someone who is trying to make a better life. We don’t want to be enablers. We want to take it easy on others, and bring our A-game, especially in the generosity department.

The F word

This series has already brought up the concept of forgiveness, but it can’t be emphasized too much. We need to forgive ourselves and others, before the fact and after. There are some incidents where the smart thing is to just let it go by. Escape to the porch or the garage for a few minutes to calm down. Use our imaginations to construct a scenario that puts the best possible light on somebody’s impossible behavior. If we are really clever, these can be teachable moments — not for others, because making a judgment call like that is presumptuous. This is about having the self-awareness to realize teachable moments on behalf of our own selves, and to make the best use of those occasions.

Right now we are in the part of the calendar when we need to take out our “Never Again” notebooks and start jotting down ideas for next time, about how to avoid repeat performances of horrendous moments. Because one thing we can be sure of is, the winter holidays will come around again, sooner than we think. Let’s be ready for them!

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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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