Potential Psychological Consequences
The typical psychological outcomes of obesity are depressive symptoms, poor body image, low self-concept, risk for eating disorders and behavior and learning problems. This list reminds me of a lonely child in our neighborhood who has all the above issues. I’ve known Anna (not her real name) since she was five. As far as I know, she has always been obese (as has her father). My heart has always gone out to her because it was obvious to me that she had low self-concept and depressive symptoms. Now, at age 13, she is still a loner and plays just with younger children, as far as I can tell. Obese children are often bullied and ridiculed about their appearance by their peers, like Michael was, affecting their self-esteem and confidence. Childhood overweight and obesity can leave emotional and psychological scars for life.
The Obvious Causes
Childhood obesity can be influenced by a number of genetic, environmental and behavioral factors. The most obvious causes are unhealthy eating patterns and too little physical activity at home and at school. Many children spend most of their time in sedentary activities like playing video games or watching television. Physical education has been eliminated from a lot of schools due to budget cuts, and too many parents are afraid to let their children play outdoors these days. As a result, people are pointing fingers to address this growing epidemic. They are blaming schools, fast food restaurants and parents. But blaming is not a solution. We need to work with schools and parents to create solutions, which thankfully, more leaders and organizations are starting to do.
I applaud TV shows like the Biggest Loser and the Emmy-Award winning Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution for increasing awareness on this subject and motivating parents and schools to take action to limit children’s consumption of fast foods, vending-machine snacks, candy and soft drinks that are high in calories and have low nutritional value. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently announced it would spend $500 million over the next five years to fight the epidemic of childhood obesity, and First Lady Michelle Obama’s obesity initiative, Let’s Move, is geared toward putting youth on a path to a healthy future by providing parents with helpful information to help support their children’s healthy choices.