Steer Clear of the Winter Holiday Blues

The subject of the mouth as the most problematic body part, during the holiday season, is a very difficult topic to let go of, because it is multi-dimensional. First and most obviously, we need to keep close watch over the foods and intoxicants we put into our own mouths. If we have children, we are keeping an eye on their consumption. Then, on top of that, speech is a whole separate compartment — what we say to others, and what others say about us.

As if those areas were not troublesome enough, there is also the category of third-party communication: what is said to us, and by us, about others who are not present. A strict rule to avoid that kind of talk is a terrific idea. If a parent wants to confide about a child’s struggle against obesity, show kindness to everyone, including yourself, by steering the conversation in a different direction. Children do not forfeit their right to privacy and respect, simply by being underage.

Empathy in action

Many people cope with substance use disorders, involving food, nicotine, alcohol, or any one of a number of things. For people who are trying to reset their bodily systems, an ordinary Tuesday can be an epic battle that uses up every ounce of determination. Once the holidays roll around, the normal trauma level is amped up by several orders of magnitude.

Sometimes it is easy to spot a person’s vulnerable areas, and sometimes not, but in either case, it’s none of our business, and we certainly don’t need to pick on anybody. Here is a strategy designed to encourage peace and goodwill: If one relative starts to discuss another’s girth, see how cleverly you can change the subject.

In the realm of loose talk, humorous intent is no excuse. One person’s “just kidding; good, clean fun” can be another person’s hellish ordeal. For a New Year’s project, challenge yourself to utilize every opportunity to turn the conversation away from other people’s size, eating habits, etc.

And another thing…

A sensible person will also strive to avoid listening to other people’s excuses and rationalizations for their subpar behavior. If someone entices you to buy in as the enabler of their overindulgence in food, drink, or substances, don’t let them.

And please, don’t let yourself be emotionally blackmailed into doing what you know is not in your best interest. Acknowledge that Grandma spent hours mashing the potatoes and that Uncle Bert is the best dessert chef in the world. Praise them profusely, and don’t do anything you know you shouldn’t do.

You might need to explain that “just one bite” can be as harmful to you as “just one drink” is for an alcoholic. Go ahead and put it out there, not only for your own sake but to encourage others with the same problem to stand tall and not allow themselves to be cajoled or bullied into self-harm. Bravely march into the wilderness, and carve that path for future generations!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Remy Sharp/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

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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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