Evade the Winter Holiday Blues

A prominent topic here has been our mouths, what goes into them, and what comes out of them. If only we could all make it through the holidays without hearing things we don’t want to hear, and especially, without saying things we shouldn’t say — what a bright world this would be!

Why, oh why, do people feel obligated to remark on the physical proportions of their friends and relatives who are only seen a few times, or even only once, per year? This brand of communication includes four basic categories:

Adult to adult

Grownups presumably have years of life experience and the advantage of at least some education to draw upon for conversational material. Why must they talk about each other’s appearances? And if they find the subject of looks inescapable, there are several possibilities other than people’s stomachs and rear ends. Hair, clothing, eyeglass frames, earrings, shoes, glitzy fingernails…

Even a positive remark carries the risk of being construed as negative. “You’re so slim!” could easily imply the hidden message, “Last New Year’s Eve, you looked like a blimp!” Why must body configuration even be a topic?

Adult to child

There is no compelling reason for an adult to mention a child’s body, and it’s even a little bit creepy. The worst-case scenario would be to admire the figure of a girl who is struggling with bulimia or anorexia. The danger of being an enabler of that kind of illness should be enough to keep any responsible adult quiet.

The possible exception would be a teenager who aspires to a professional athletic career and is in great shape. But if that is the case, they already know it anyway, and adulation from their peers means a heck of a lot more than a compliment from some random grownup. Rather than praise the physique itself, it would be more meaningful to praise the amount of dedication and hard work that obviously went into the attainment of it.

As for any denigration of a child’s body, there simply is no excuse. An adult who finds it impossible to avoid remarking on a child’s size should probably just go up to the attic or down to the basement and sleep it off.

Child to adult

Obviously, nobody can do much about what the kids, in the privacy of the TV room after dinner, say to each other about their moms, dads, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. And any parent whose kid would call an adult a hippopotamus to their face has more problems than we are equipped to handle here.

Child to child

Even the most beautifully raised children cannot help being exposed to the savagery of other people’s kids. We can only do our best, through conscientious and unrelenting example, to prevent our own offspring from either becoming the victims of monster children, or becoming monster children themselves.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

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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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