Obesity in the US is at an all time high. This is especially true when it comes to children. Where it was one common for kids to spend all day playing outside, now they spend their time inside on the computer, in front of video games or watching TV. Combined with a reduction in healthy food availability in schools and homes, this has created an epidemic of obesity, especially in poorer areas. Physical complications of this have been well documented, and many doctors will speak to their overweight patients about problems. The emotional effects can be just as damaging, if not more, and there is not nearly enough attention being paid to this. Here are some of the emotional issues in childhood obesity:
Whether it's a class pool party with everyone in their bathing suits, a chance to shine in gym class or a spot on the neighborhood soccer team, there are many different opportunities that get missed by being overweight or obese. These activities are some of the fundamental ways that kids make social connections, and if these chances are avoided, there is a lot of pain and loneliness associated with missing out. Though children may pretend that they don't want to do these things, or they are too afraid to try, they do miss having a chance to develop healthy social relations.
Self consciousness in many kids doesn't evolve until middle school. For obese children, though, this is often not the case. These kids can't fit into the clothes that other kids have. They can't play on the playground equipment, or ride horses or bikes as well, and they can't keep up even when they try and do these things. Kids in this situation don't blame others for the situation, but they often focus fault on themselves. This can lead to a deep feeling of shame, and an assumption that many more things in their lives are their fault, like if their parents divorce or they are in a poor or abusive household.
If shame and blaming yourself is taken far enough or if it happens long enough, social anxiety will begin to happen. Kids will enter all new situations expecting to be ostracized, made fun of or overlooked. They will stop trying to have social interactions with most kids at all, and this will often lead to poor school performance. This will further the shame spiral, and make these children feel like they have nothing to offer the world. Many of these children will cope with these things by overeating or hiding and watching digital media instead of playing outside. Unfortunately, this often leads to an increasing number on the scale, more obesity, and a bigger problem.