The psychological development of any child that agonizes because of childhood obesity, regardless of what causes the obesity, is likely to be negatively affected. As a pandemic of adult obesity continues to advance unabated because of modernization, urbanization, economic growth and globalization, the children of the world proportionally, and increasingly, suffer. Many times, obese children demonstrate potentially permanent debilitating psychological maladjustments including:
- Low Self-esteem
- Flawed Self-image
- Anxiety Disorders
The Definition of Obesity
Obesity is the state of having an excessive amount of body fat when compared with the amount of lean body mass. Body Mass Index (BMI) chartsare primarily used to classify differing degrees of human obesity. Worldwide obesity levels continue to skyrocket due to:
- Easy availability of nutrient-poor, high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium foods;
- Lifestyles that are severely lacking in regular physical activity;
- Increasing income levels within highly populated urban areas;
- Mass usage of public transport;
- Prevalence of home-based technologies;
- Physically passive pursuits of leisure;
- Family dysfunction;
Children who grow up overweight and/or obese tend to become obese adults. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1 billion adults that are overweight globally. Of those, more than 300 million are classified as obese. It’s also estimated that more than 22 million children under 5 years old are obese. Clinical research consistently indicates that a variety of negative psychological developments are occurring amongst obese children.
With more than 20% of all children between 6 and 17 now believed to be obese, childhood obesity levels have roughly triples in the past 3 decades. For instance, 6 to 11 year old obesity rates have raised from 6.5% in 1980 up to 19.6% in 2008. And for children between 2 and 6 years old, obesity rates have increased from 5% in 1980 to 12.4% in 2008.
Children of 2 obese/overweight parents have their probability of becoming obese increased by roughly 70%. Obese children are also 70% probable to remain obese as adults. Very commonly, social discrimination acts to keep obese children from exercising and otherwise interacting with their schoolmates. In turn, this may lead to the development of various antisocial tendencies.
Childhood Obesity & Low Self-Esteem
- Children learn early about body awareness. Children are affected every day by other children around them. Harsh personal judgments are brought down because of superficial characteristics and features including clothing, looks, poverty level, and especially, weight.
- Self-esteem issues observed in obese children show that they are unsatisfied with their lives on many levels – not simply because of their physical appearances.
- A 2000 study by Dr. Richard Strauss concluded that overweight/obese girls were 4 times more likely than healthy-weight girls to develop low self-esteem.
- Overweight children with low self-esteem are more likely to feel lonely, experience anxiousness, drink alcohol, smoke, take drugs and feel depressed than are their peers with healthy self-esteem.
- Additionally, because obesity is looked upon undesirably in so many societies, obese children are subjected daily to generalized stereotypes, misinformation and lacking social compassion. They often end up with deep-rooted feelings of lessened self esteem.
Childhood Obesity & Developing a Flawed Self-Image
Children live in the constant endeavor of forming mental concepts of
themselves. It’s also proven that peer response and social acceptance
are integral factors in the multi-faceted equation of
self-identification. Obese children receive an almost never-ending
barrage of value judgments, insults, attitudes and other acts of
One of the strongest factors that determine self-esteem in children is the perception that others have of them. That perception determines how others react to them, which in turn directly influences their self-esteem.
Clinical Statistics about Childhood Obesity & Anxiety Disorders
- About 1/3 of obese children and adolescents self-report psychological maladjustment.
- Almost 2/3 of the same children’s mothers will report psychological maladjustment concerning them.
- Levels of psychological distress increases for all family members when an obese child is not adjusting to life in a psychologically normal way.
- As overweight and obese children age, they are cumulatively affected by discrimination and generalized societal chastisement. Over time, their economic, social and educational life areas are negatively affected.
Childhood Obesity & Depression
- Clinical research has proven that childhood obesity can lead to the onset of chronic depression. Obese children often feel hopelessly sad about not being able to fit in with their healthy-weight peers.
- Many times, depressed obese children demonstrate changes in sleeping patterns and lose interest in leisure and/or pleasure-based activities.
- Obese children live with consistent feelings of insecurity. They often feel as though they are inferior to their peers. The social lives of obese children continually suffer, largely due to feelings of discomfort in social situations.
- Children and teenagers who experience depression tend to continue to battle depression as adults.
- Obese children often develop a “flattened out” emotionality. When children live with obesity, they also demonstrate increased probabilities for suicidal thinking.
How Fast Food Affects Child Obesity
There are several factors contributing to the epidemic of childhood obesity including television, video games and the food our children eat. Due to hectic schedules more parents are turning to fast food choices to feed their children without realizing the effects this can have on their child’s health and well being.
Parents Should be Aware of How Fast Food Affects Child Obesity
Fast food is an unhealthy food choice for your children. Fast food contains high amounts of calories, carbohydrates, fats, salts and sugars. Due to the high amounts of these, in one meal your child may consume almost the entire days recommended daily allowance. These foods also contain starch which increases food cravings resulting in more food consumption adding to the weight gain. They are also lacking in essential nutrients and vitamins that a healthy home cooked meal can offer. Due to the lack of vitamins and minerals children who consume mostly fast food often tend to suffer from fatigue, constipation, decreased concentration and are at risk for conditions such as anemia.
Eating fast food can easily become a habit for busy families, but parents should be aware that fast food directly affects weight gain in children and that weight gain directly affects the health of your child.
Obesity in childhood can lead to health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, elevated blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels and the emotional issues such as low self esteem, low confidence and social isolation.
Commercials for Fast Food Affect Childhood Obesity
Television commercials are targeting your children with jingles and brightly colored adds promising toys related to the newest movie craze included in their meals every day. They entice children to get their parents to take them out for fast food so they can get the toy. What they do not tell you is that usually you can purchase the toy without the meal. So, buy the toy and place it next to the healthy meal you cook at home for your child.
Limiting Fast Food Affects Child Obesity
To think that you could completely stop letting your child eat any fast food would be impossible. The occasional fast food meal once or twice a month can help satisfy their craving for fast food while reducing the risk that it will affect their health so adversely. By limiting the amount of fast food your child eats you are lowering the risks of impaired health and teaching them healthy eating habits that they will bring with them into their adult years and pass on to their own children some day.
More facts about childhood obesity:
Further research shows that most children (even obese children) agree that being obese is undesirable. These children state that they would rather befriend someone with an obvious physical handicap. When they look at pictures of overweight kids, they state that they would not befriend them. Obese children are likely to be thought of and looked upon as disruptive, immature and/or otherwise inferior. Classmates and teachers alike discriminate against obese children.
- Zeller, M. H., Saelens, B. E., Roehrig, H., Kirk, S., Daniels, S. R. (2004) Psychological adjustment of obese youth presenting for weight management treatment. Obes Res 12: 1576–1586.