Avert the Winter Holiday Blues

Recent posts have a lot to say about the damage that can be done by mouths, both our own and other people’s. Some adults put intoxicants into their mouths, and unkind words come out. They have something to say about another person’s size, or their eating habits. Children, being such excellent mimics, can be just as rude without even taking a drink.

Often, hearers of those mocking and fat-shaming words become upset or “triggered,” and then proceed to shovel a large amount of food into their mouths, which ultimately makes the situation even worse. And of course, no parent wants to be ridiculed as an enabler who fattens children up as if to enter them in the State Fair’s giant pumpkin contest.

Why do they do it?

For an obese child, seeing relatives only once or twice a year can be a special kind of torment. It’s as if some people are robots, incapable of saying anything original. Their first remark is always size-related, and on a certain level, it really does not matter if the words are derogatory or complimentary. Without being able to sort out the thoughts and reactions they feel subconsciously, a child may still have an instinctive response along the lines of, “Who gave anyone the right to talk about my body?”

No one wants to feel like a piece of human merchandise up on the auction block, with their flaws and good points being discussed to influence the bidding. Even the least reflective child can detect the injustice. “Why is it any of her business what’s inside my clothes?” is one thought that comes to mind, or “We haven’t seen each other for a year, and that’s the conversation starter he has to lead with?”

To say, or not to say?

If each and every one of us could learn to bite our tongues and not repeat that fat joke at Cousin Lizzie’s expense, the world would be a better place, and even the impulse toward “positive” interference should be carefully considered. Whether the target is a child or adult, even the most kindly, well-meaning attempt at intervention will not be received with gratitude.

One year, the National Obesity Forum conducted a study to see how folks feel about telling others they are fat at Christmas. Here is an interesting detail:

Men find it hardest to tell their partners, while women were more worried about bringing up the issue with a friend.

Maybe, nobody should tell anybody anything. Maybe it’s simply not a discussion to have on this sort of occasion, especially when unasked for. On the other hand, Prof. David Haslam, the organization’s chairperson, says go ahead and be that dreaded bringer of bad news:

Suggesting to someone that they should consider losing a few pounds may not be a comfortable conversation to have. But if someone close to you has a large waistline then as long as you do it sensitively, discussing it with them now could help them avoid critical health risks later down the line and could even save their life.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “’Tell loved ones they are overweight this Christmas’, BBC.com, 12/21/11
Image by FolsomNatural/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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