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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Along with millions of other Americans, I am overweight. This time of year is particularly difficult for me because of the well-intentioned but misguided actions of friends and family. With the holidays upon us, I have the following suggestions for anyone who knows someone who is fighting the battle of the bulge (and who doesn't?):

1. Avoid giving gifts of food. This means ALL food -- even your special sugar-free coconut cream pie. Giving chocolates or other fattening treats is, at the least, insensitive and borders on downright cruelty.

2. Do not "push" food on another person. If you're hosting a meal or a party, make a variety of healthy foods available along with any special treats you've prepared. Allow your guests to choose for themselves without comment. It is especially unfair to use guilt ("I made these just for you") to force food upon someone.

3. Do not comment on how much (or how little) someone is eating. Such comments draw unwanted attention to attempts to maintain control of holiday eating.

4. Have some compassion. We don't want to be fat. Losing weight and keeping it off is extraordinarily difficult for some of us. Don't think that you know what our problem is, because you don't. Obesity is a complicated issue with behavioral, emotional and spiritual elements. A single formula that works for everyone has yet to be discovered.

Finally, be supportive. If someone you love is trying to lose weight, be available to listen. Do not judge. -- CHUBBY IN PITTSBURGH

DEAR CHUBBY: Your suggestions are terrific and well worth space in this column. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in this country, and those who are trying to do something about the problem deserve all the help and support they can get. Dieting is difficult any time of year. But during the holidays with temptation all around, it's especially difficult to make it through the minefield.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for 38 years. During the past 10 of them, we have taken up dancing, and folks think we're pretty good.

My problem is, the place where we go has women who have no dancing partner, and they all want to dance with my husband, which leaves me sitting part of the night. There is one woman in particular who is younger than I am and who wants to do all the dances that I like to do with him. She had a dancing partner until just a few months ago. Actually, her husband is there, too, but he doesn't dance.

My husband will tell me he's too tired to dance to anything fast, and then she will ask him and he jumps up. He always says I should go ask other men to dance, but there is really no one there who can dance the way I like. Am I wrong to let this bother me? -- CONFUSED IN WHITE PINE, TENN.

DEAR CONFUSED: It all depends upon how many dances you're sitting out. Your husband is probably flattered by the attention he's getting from all of these partnerless ladies. If one of them asks your husband for a dance that's one of your favorites, speak up and tell her that it's already spoken for -- and she should try again later. It's better than sitting and fuming.

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklets I and II, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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