Beware the Winter Holiday Blues

The body part most closely associated with the winter holiday festivities is the mouth, and not only because of all the singing and eating. At any social gathering, there is generally quite a bit of loose talk, the kind that does damage. This is true of many different environments — work, school, and especially family gatherings. Is there anyone who has not been hurt or insulted by the words of some relative or family friend, at the exact time of year when everything is supposed to all be love and light?

Despite the common belief that nobody should be alone for the holidays, a lot of people would pretty much rather be on their own rather than put up with a lot of nonsense. They don’t want to hear about how overweight they look this year, compared to the same time last year. They probably don’t even want to commiserate with other parents about how difficult it is to keep the children from ballooning up.

A family get-together can turn toxic pretty fast. Children might face an excruciating dilemma, caught between two equally vital concepts. Your parents warn you there are certain kinds of kids you shouldn’t hang out with, because it can only lead to trouble. Then, you meet one or more kids that your personal spidey-sense tells you are bad news — except you have to hang out with them, because they are your cousins.

Enforced tribal cohesiveness

For many people of all ages, another unattractive aspect of a big family gathering is that you’re expected to stick with it for the duration. Some sensitive children get very unbalanced from being around too many people for too long. But to be separated from the grownups does not help, because some of the kids you get banished to the rec room with are obnoxious. At least an adult might go on a helpful or necessary errand, and make a temporary escape. A grownup can choose to drive away, or walk away, or find a place to be alone for a while.

A very clever grownup may engineer some quality time with a favorite relative while avoiding the less agreeable ones. It comes as no surprise that even super-sophisticated folk like psychologists, trained therapists, and clergy members can be thrown off their stride during the holidays.

The ordeal

Children are expected to be polite, good-natured, respectful, and most of all they are expected to cheerfully put up with personal remarks about their appearance. A lot of children and teens are defenseless against cruelty, especially from relatives. An overweight young person is aware that he or she will be critically scrutinized and discussed, and probably photographed for reasons other than a desire for fond memories.

What is worse — to endure this kind of discrimination alone, or as part of a group? There are family get-togethers where every adult considers it her or his sworn duty to issue an opinion about every single other person who is present — especially the kids. It’s as if critiquing each body, young or old, is their job, and they’re trying for a promotion. Somehow, you just know that Aunt Nell intends to go back home to her circle of evil witch friends and show everybody how much fatter her niece is today than a year ago.

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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.
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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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