Escape the Winter Holiday Blues

Around this time of year, Americans are likely to celebrate one or more of around 30 different religious and cultural holidays. Most of these festivities seem to involve gifts, merriment, and eating. Obesity and the holidays intersect in this “best of” compilation of some of the most inspiring and original ideas out there. Reminders are either paraphrased or quoted, of helpful ideas from Childhood Obesity News posts of bygone years.

The cold and calculating mechanisms of media advertising urge us to eat excessively, and to give other people excessive things, like chocolate-covered cherries or triple-dipped gingerbread, to eat. But it does not all stem from personal or corporate greed, oh no. People who urge you to eat until you get sick and hate yourself, operate from the most lovely and generous impulses in the world.

In their minds, what they want is for you to be joyful and happy, and they believe that an elevated calorie count equals bliss. They don’t understand, or pretend not to understand, or do not want to understand. Whatever the basic and basically well-meaning reason may be, the result is not good for us.

Good intentions

The holidays hold endless potential for trauma, most of it inflicted by people who sincerely want the best, and only the best, for us. Yet and still, harmful patterns from our childhood, and even our parents’ childhoods, leap out from behind the Christmas tree or down the chimney.

The varieties of awfulness are endless. Some parents start months beforehand, using the upcoming holiday as a truncheon or even a stun gun, administering threats and punishment. “I guess we’ll just tell Santa to skip this house this year. Nope, too late to apologize. Don’t bother looking all sad. You’ve gone and done it. No Christmas for you!”

Naturally, parents who do not want the next generation to inherit this kind of ugliness will go out of their way to create a good time, and that will probably involve a lot of treats. We need to take time to think more deeply, and find a better prescription for old wounds than “throw sugar at it.”

Look forward to non-food

In the old days, it was very easy for parents to keep young children away from unhealthful influences. Youngsters had no way to know what dangers they were protected from. Now, everybody has ways of knowing everything, and kids begging to go to 99 shows will run a parent ragged.

Good results might be had from planning that starts well ahead of the season. If there is a local events center or arena, a preplanned attendance at something really spectacular could help to dampen further demands. To see a live performance of The Nutcracker, a family doesn’t even have to celebrate Christmas. Such special occasions are cross-cultural.

How do we show children we love them without ruining their health? How do we restrain kids from accepting every offer of a free cookie or candy cane, without coming across like ogres? This next idea is hard and takes a lot of work and commitment, and it’s too late to implement it this year. But to have some say over what treats are served or allowed to be donated at your kids’ school next year, it might be worth joining whatever group has power over their school activities.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Larry Lamsa/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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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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