A Winter Holidays Encyclopedia — 12

New Year’s Eve is pretty much a grownup occasion, but as always, the kids are watching, and they see more than we realize. They not only witness, but they also absorb. The attitudes and habits they see us demonstrate or “model” are likely to become the attitudes and habits they adopt, and this is worth bearing in mind.

The mission here is to help grownups, teenagers, and children to cope with whatever difficulties they encounter during this season, and avoid gaining 10 pounds or doing anything they will intensely dislike themselves for on the morning of January 1. Adults of course bear more responsibility. We are supposed to not only keep ourselves in good order but to look after the younger folk and try to help them stay stress-free. Hopefully, this next topic is mostly a grownup problem.

Seasonal depression, and then some

Jessica Maharaj, the oft-quoted clinical mental health counselor, has addressed the issue of grief over the holidays. For many people the world over, the last couple of years have been replete with grief for deceased or seriously ill family members and friends. She encourages the acceptance of feelings, which after all must be the first step toward dealing with anything, and reminds us that we can respect our feelings and also gently, respectfully say no.

If watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with the group brings up too many painful memories, we don’t have to do it. If we met our late partner on New Year’s Eve 25 years ago and this is the first year alone, we are not obligated to go out that night and celebrate.

For many of us, what this all leads up to is the stark truth that we had better not use the holidays as an excuse to slip, backslide, fall off the wagon, take a cheat day, or in any other way let our addictive disorders get the upper hand. And overeating is one of them. Maharaj says,

Take care of yourself. Find healthy ways to cope, such as exercising. Organizing family walks is a great way to get fresh air and enjoy the company of others. Don’t search for solace in unhealthy foods or alcohol. If alcohol is present, drink responsibly.

And eat responsibly. Split a cookie with a child. Don’t eat a dozen cookies. Ask for a half-slice of pie. If your host can’t handle that, find another place to go next year. Even during the holiday season when we love everyone and don’t wish to cause strife, we can still stand up for ourselves and be true to the promises we have made to ourselves.

In “Welcome Back to Temptationville,” we mentioned that a psychologically dangerous aspect of holiday feasting is the food-as-hospitality equation, and the tendency of people to be hurt and even insulted if their guests do not eagerly devour every calorie in sight. Therapy and/or group support can help us, as guests, to become more competent at saying “no” in a way that will stick. As hosts, we can all renounce any tendency to push guests into taking more than they want.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Avoiding Holiday Stressors: Tips for a Stress-Free Season,” NAMI,org, 12/03/18
Image by Carolyn/CC BY-ND 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.
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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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