I was an obese child from the 2nd-grade through the 9th-grade. Despite my obesity, I had a wonderful childhood. It was not a childhood devoid of fat jokes or ridicule, and these digs did sorely hurt when they occurred, but the damage was not long-lasting. My family was very loving; I had many friends, and even a boyfriend.
Sadly, many overweight and obese children miss out on a happy childhood because they are outcasts owing to their weight.
The Emotional Burden of Being an Overweight Teen
Teen years fall somewhere between the “best days of a life” to an unwillingness to repeat the ordeal even for all the cash between the East and West coasts. If you are popular – great! If you are central in the pecking order, good enough. If you have any attribute that targets you for ridicule, well… you are probably unwilling to repeat the teen ordeal. Among the many targets that predatory peers hone in on is being overweight, or worse yet, being obese.
Overweight or obese teens often feel bad about themselves even in the unlikely absence of peer ridicule. When such cruelties are added to the mix, the results can be hurtful and ugly. Read: Social, Economic, and Health Impact of Obesity.
It’s a sad fact that overweight teens endure poor treatment not only by peers but by teachers and parents, as well. The result is that overweight teens become more likely to engage in unhealthy eating habits or develop eating disorders, become bullied, tormented and rejected by their peers, and have low self-esteem. Read: Parental Roles and Childhood Obesity Part 1 and Part 2.
Discrimination against Obese Children
Young children who were shown pictures of overweight children defined the children in the pictures as lazy and stated they would rather not have them as friends. The children further stated that they would rather be friends with a child who has a visible handicap such as a missing limb. Such assessments were made by both normal weight children and children who were themselves overweight. Read: Discrimination Against Obese Employees is Common and Accepted.
Obesity among Children and Teens
Clinical obesity among children and teens has gone from 6% to 15% in the last twenty years and is now the most common chronic illness in pediatrics. Hospital discharges for pediatric and teen obesity-related illnesses has doubled in those same twenty years. Hospital care for these young people has tripled to over 150 million dollars annually. Read: Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy Using Games.
Negative Body Image in the Teen Years
Teenagers frequently compare themselves to peers. If comparisons regarding physical appearances are unsatisfactory to overweight or obese adolescents then the potential for developing a negative body image is high. Read: Feeling Confident When You Are Obese.
Poor body image can result in less time spent with friends that in turn can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.
Although negative body image is a mindset shared by both males and females, females are more subject to negative self-evaluations. The average dieting age for girls in 1970 was 14 but had dropped to 8-years old by 1990. Girls also reported that their fear of becoming fat was greater than their fear of nuclear war, cancer, or losing both parents.
Poor body image can lead to eating disorders. Although anorexia and bulimia are disorders that predominantly effect females, about 2 percent of males meet the criteria for a diagnosis of one or the other.
At age 16, I developed disordered eating habits that lasted for more than twenty-years. Initially, with the help of diet pills, I would eat less than 100 calories a day and exercise extensively. I got down to 120lbs from my starting weight of 185lbs.
After a few months my appetite went on a rampage and I would binge eat and then purge. This lasted for a few years and I maintained my weight between 135 and 150lbs. Read: Treatment for Binge Eating.
In my twenties I became a compulsive overeater. I would still binge but rarely purge. Steadily my weight soared to 285lbs in my late thirties. I developed diabetes and hypertension. Worst of all, I suffered greatly from depression. Read: Am I Obese Because I am Depressed or Depressed Because I am Obese?
Teen Depression and Weight
Many teenagers are clinically depressed because of their preoccupation with
being overweight. Many obese teens rate their quality of life at the same level as do cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy. Studies have shown that depression, low self-esteem, and social isolation by obese teens leads to behavioral problems. When these children are grown, they are less likely to be accepted into college or to get married and are more likely to have a lower socioeconomic status. Read: The Benefits of Bariatric Surgery for Severely Obese Adolescents.
DrDolgof.com - http://drdolgoff.com/blog/2009/04/17/the-devastating-psychological-effects-of-child-obesity/
Overweight Teen - http://www.overweightteen.com/
Ygoy - http://obesity.ygoy.com/2011/02/10/worst-psychological-effects-of-teenage-obesity/
What to read next: “Surviving Chubby” – My Journey to Weight-Loss Surgery
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You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003, and since that time my journey from processed food junkie to healthy living so as to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management. Whether you are planning or have had bariatric surgery, or you want to lose weight through non-surgical means, my shareposts along the way will help you to navigate your journey successfully.
Published On: September 28, 2012