Childhood obesity is an issue on many levels. Although people normally think first about the physiological threats to health, there are a lot of potential mental health issues, too. After all, there are things in the social lives of our kids that change drastically when they are overweight.
Apart from the risks of conditions like fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes, obesity leads to issues like low self-esteem. The child knows they are not the socially accepted “ideal” and may feel less-than and feel negative emotions towards themselves for “allowing” themselves to become and stay overweight. They may be afraid of public attention and participating in class (or other social) activities, especially physical ones.
Childhood Obesity in Teenagers
As a matter of fact, These anxieties, sadly, aren’t unfounded. Obesity attracts bullies and teasing, which can be an extremely traumatic and embarrassing experience for a growing child. Kids often find any excuse to call attention to someone’s weight. They might blame the overweight kid for a fart or jeer them for eating a big plate of food.
A point often overlooked is knowing they might be subject to this targeted attack, the overweight child often tries to blend into the shadows with varying degrees of success. They may even end up becoming aggressive and a bully themselves, which only continues this unhealthy cycle. As you might have already figured out, obesity can be a factor in anxiety or depressive episodes.
Childhood Obesity and Mental Health in Teenagers
The harsh words (both real and imagined) that others say about them or that they tell themselves can take a serious toll. Just having to go to school or other places where bullies might be can make anxiety and depression that much worse. These kids may gravitate towards diets and exercise, which can be good, but could also very well be done in an unhealthy way. Yes, I am talking about eating disorders or compulsive exercise.
Childhood Obesity and mental health in teenagers
That said, lifestyle changes may very well be good for your child. After all, healthy nutritional choices and physical activity are good for all of us, whether overweight or not. This is where you come in as parent/guardian. Your guidance will help them do this in a healthy way. Getting the whole family involved in eating more fruits and veggies or less empty carbs can also help your kid not to feel singled out.
Perhaps the most important thing is not only that you talk to your child but how you talk to your child.
It’s important that you let them know you don’t think any less of them because they are overweight. Let them know they are amazing and that you can see that even if other people don’t. If you do decide to lead them towards a healthier lifestyle, try not to be overbearing. The last thing they need is their parents adding to the chorus of voices pulling them down.
Yes, this is an issue that can be hard to imagine, much less deal with. However, as a family, you can provide the emotional support and guidance your child needs to get through it.