Being overweight has always been a stigma in society.
Those who are chubby are passed over for jobs, thought to be sloppy or unclean, and the list goes on. Those same unfounded and hurtful thoughts will be conveyed to your children if they are obese.
Society’s Changing Fads
Let’s talk about fads. A fad is something that is here and popular for the moment, but quickly fades from view. Think of skinny jeans. Think of bell-bottom pants. Think of parachute pants. These fashions come and go.
Many of society’s fads center on more than fashion; they center on body appearance. The fad now is that you need to be super-thin to be “in” and even to be acceptable in the world, not just the world of fashion. This is conveyed in everyday life in spite of the fact that the average woman is a size 14. Even for plus size clothing, some advertisers use skinny models and profess how good these fashions look on women with larger bodies. How does this make sense?
There are two things going on here; society’s obsession with being super skinny to look good, and actual obesity. Our children, and we, need to know the difference. Yes, we need to be aware of a child’s weight, especially when that child is approaching obesity as measured by BMI or Body Mass Index. But, we also need to be aware of the stress that children feel to be “skinny” and what happens to a child emotionally when they can’t maintain their body in the current fad of being stick thin.
Overweight children see this scrutiny by adults who are fad-conscious. Children who are thin have a wider acceptance by adults across the spectrum; parents, teachers, waiters, doctors, shop keepers, etc. Children who are overweight are seen by adults as being lazy, sometimes even less intelligent.
A Jury of their Peers
If adults look at overweight children with these types of societal views or fads, it is only a matter of time before other kids view them that way, too. Children can be cruel because they are so brutally honest. If you’ve ever heard a child get teased on the playground, you know how one child may start, but pretty soon others are joining in.
That sort of teasing or bullying can instill feelings of self-loathing in a child who is overweight. This may set up a lifetime of low self esteem and continued over-eating.
These kids are prone to depression even at a young age. They develop eating disorders as a way to control their weight. They may also retreat further into food, or other mood-altering means to soothe their psyche. Some children may welcome the added weight as a perverse way of hiding within their own body to avoid notice by other children. You can see how this backfires and hurts a child even further.
Obese children are less likely to try out for sports teams or to even exercise in front of others. Their weight and body both are an embarrassment. They are now feeling self-conscious about their body. These children remain on the sidelines, which leads to further sedentary habits. As we adults know, the longer we wait to start an exercise program, the harder it becomes. We don’t like the way we look in our exercise clothes, so avoid them entirely. With young children who are in the midst of discovering their bodies and the angst that brings, this exposure to critical peers is crushing.
Stop the Downward Spiral
Understanding obesity will help reverse this downward spiral in a child’s life, but it is slow to change. We know that ridicule is not the answer to solve the problem of childhood obesity. It only makes matters worse. Adults need to step in where necessary and help an overweight child regain his or her self worth. That is the only way a child will develop a lifelong program of fitness – if they believe they are worthy of good health.
Adults can show a child they are a worthwhile person by being involved with, not only their fitness program, but all that child is interested in; music, art, movies, and yes, cooking. Your involvement helps a child face peer pressure and the scrutiny of society with their head held high. Children with high self-esteem are less likely to suffer from depression, even if they are overweight. A good self worth will also help develop a determination to change their situation. Instilling self worth begins at a young age, and begins with you, the adult.
Get involved with your child. Plan an exercise program together. Teach them about nutrition and cooking healthy foods. Help them find healthy ways to cope with their feelings. Attack the problem of obesity on every level, not just caloric, and you’ll see a happier, more well adjusted child. Weight loss is only one side of this problem – the better outcome for your child is a healthy mind, body, and soul.
To learn more about how to deal with childhood obesity, check out this excellent book by Susan Okie. To order the book, click on this image.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment or sound off about the epidemic.