Know! The Emotional Impact of Adolescent Obesity

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: Childhood obesity is a serious health condition that has been on a steady rise for the past three decades. For adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19, obesity is at an all-time high, having more than tripled since 1980 - according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While many people are aware of the associated physical health risks of childhood obesity (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing issues, joint problems and musculo-skeletal discomfort), many are not aware of the severe emotional impact it can cause.

When compared to an average child of healthy weight, an obese 10-year-old may or may not experience a lower sense of self-worth due to his/her weight. However, by the time that same child reaches 14, he/she is much more likely to experience low self-worth if the extra weight remains. Research shows that low self-worth paired with obesity places teens at greater risk for engaging in hazardous behaviors such as drinking, smoking and using other drugs.

Adolescent obesity is also associated with depression (sometimes due to failed attempts to lose weight and/or feelings of hopelessness), anxiety (many times due to taunting and teasing  by others) and poor body image (which can unfortunately bring it full circle, causing many youth to avoid participating in physical activities altogether).

If your child’s weight falls under the category of obese, for these reasons and many more, it is important to help him/her make lifestyle changes now. Experts say that an effective and lasting weight control plan must focus on healthy eating as well as increased physical activity and should involve the child, the parents and the pediatrician’s input. If you are concerned about your child’s weight, act now; reach out to your pediatrician and begin the lifelong journey toward healthy living today.

All families are encouraged to take action to support healthy, active lifestyles during Childhood Obesity Month and year-round – here are some tips to strive for:

  • Start each day with a healthy breakfast;
  • Include five fruits and vegetables daily;
  • Cut screen time to no more than two hours per day;
  • Incorporate a total of at least one hour of physical activity daily;
  • Lose or at least limit the sugar-sweetened drinks and fast food;
  • Eat foods high in fiber and rich in calcium;
  • Whenever possible, plan and prepare meals as a family, then sit down together to eat and talk.

For additional CDC resources on childhood obesity, click here.

For the CDC’s Child and Teen Body Mass Calculator, click here