Can obesity in kids lead to emotional health damage?

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Can obesity in kids lead to emotional health damage?
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It is said that obesity is the consequence of many different factors; sometimes it is genetic in nature and other times, it is the result of poor lifestyle choices such as eating habits and sleeping patterns.

When it comes to childhood obesity, Dr Rajat Goel, obesity and bariatric surgeon at Apollo Spectra Delhi, Karol Bagh, says childhood obesity has financial expenses in addition to health expenditures. “Your child’s weight issue is closely linked to their emotional life,” he says.

According to the expert, obesity can take an emotional toll on the kid. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Social shame and stigma

“Living with extra weight may be difficult for overweight kids. In some ways, the social stigma associated with it may harm children just as much as the medical illnesses and problems that frequently go along with it,” says Dr Goel.

He adds that studies have shown youngsters as early as six years old may identify negative stereotypes with obesity and assume that a big child is “less likeable in a culture that places a premium on thinness”.

2. Bullying at school and self-esteem

While it is true that some overweight kids can enjoy popularity among their peers, feel good and possess a lot of self-confidence, compared to slimmer friends, they may be likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, too.

“Their low self-esteem may cause them to feel self-conscious about appearance; this lack of confidence may affect schoolwork. You probably don’t need a lengthy explanation of how tough a child’s daily life may occasionally be if they are overweight,” says the doctor.

He warns that these children may hear from peers (and even adults) that being overweight is their own responsibility. “They could receive insults, experience bullying and taunting. They could be shunned by their old pals, and may have a hard time finding new ones. When teams are chosen in physical education classes, they could be the last to be picked.”

Some overweight youngsters may turn to food for emotional consolation. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

3. Depression

According to the doctor, the child can feel they do not fit in or belong anywhere. They could consider themselves to be an outcast. “They will frequently experience loneliness, and might also grow melancholic. When this scenario becomes embedded in their life — month after month, year after year…[it could signal depression].”

4. Emotional eating

While their parents and physicians are advising them to eat less, some overweight youngsters may turn to food for emotional consolation, says the doctor. “Some kids habitually overeat due to these and other emotional ups and downs in life, such as the strain of relocating to a new area, challenges in school, the loss of a parent, or a divorce.”

5. Discrimination

There are other effects of obesity that last longer, beyond puberty, he adds.

According to the expert, teenagers and adults who are overweight may experience prejudice based only on their weight. “According to some data, they have a lower chance of being admitted to a prominent university. Compared to their counterparts who are slimmer, they could also have a harder time getting desirable occupations. Overweight folks may have a tendency to make less money than their acquaintances who are of average weight,” he states.

The expert says the cycle can be broken. “Problems like excessive screen time, inactivity, and poor food may be resolved by making lifestyle adjustments. The dietary pattern of a balanced, more plant-based, less-processed foods, regular physical exercise, and less screen time should be encouraged by parents. These things can enhance gut health, regulate weight, and enhance self-esteem and overall well-being,” the expert concludes.

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