Overweight children suffer from low self-esteem, social isolation and even depression. It is important to be alert to help them if necessary.
The prevalence of obesity in children increases worryingly for decades. In addition to physical problems, the psychological consequences of having a socially inappropriate weight can be devastating.
Children are increasingly aware of their body image at younger ages. Social pressure and concern for the image make a dent in his psyche from a very young age. By the age of six, when they start formal education, they have already internalized the social canons and the idea that ‘being fat is bad’.
Unlike the consequences of being overweight, psychological consequences are closely related to discrimination and social rejection. Children with a non-normative weight have to live with the lack of one of the most precious qualities of society: thinness.
In this way, they suffer the stigma of being different, of being pointed out, criticized and even blamed for their condition. Indeed, it is common for these little ones to endure daily comments that are branded as gluttonous, left or lazy. It is easy to imagine the great impact that these experiences can have on a person still in training.
Consequences of overweight in children
Studies have been carried out that demonstrate the influence of overweight on the personality of children who suffer from it. These infants are more dependent, overprotected and submissive. Also, they have a greater tendency to be prudent, impressionable and unimpressive. On the other hand, children with adequate weight tend to be more independent, stubborn and enthusiastic.
Of course, the effect of overweight on the personality is mediated by other factors such as the family and social environment that surrounds the child. However, it constitutes a significant risk factor.
Luckily or unfortunately, overweight children are clearly aware that their body is not socially desirable or accepted. Therefore, they are often considered inferior and tend to be compared and judged harshly.
In addition, comparison and judgment are not limited to their weight, but they develop a tendency to focus their attention on their negative qualities and overlook their virtues. Thus, a poor self-concept is built that will accompany them during their growth and will affect all areas of their life.
Problems in social relations
Due to their low self-esteem, these children will feel insecure in social interactions. They may tend to isolate themselves for fear of rejection or to be in evidence. They may not want to participate in group activities, sports or even show reluctance to go to school.
To this must be added the discrimination and abuse they may suffer from their peers. As we have said, children quickly absorb stereotypes, and some of them will not hesitate to attack and displace those peers who do not meet aesthetic standards.
Depression due to overweight in children
Negative self-concept coupled with social isolation can lead children to borderline situations. We all need to experience the feeling of belonging, the establishment of quality links and positive recognition by our environment.
Psychological consequences of overweight in children.
When the situation continues over time, it is possible that the child begins to experience a sadness and an apathy that lead to clinical depression. This situation will require intervention by professionals, and it is important that adults be alert to be able to provide support when necessary.
We must bear in mind that the manifestations of childhood depression are not the same as those of an adult. Children can adopt aggressive behaviours with family members or peers that really mask a deep sadness and hopelessness.
It is common that in these cases, a vicious circle of sadness-food develops that perpetuates the problem. In the face of emotional distress, many children can turn to food as a comfort, eating more calories than necessary. Also, sadness and apathy can lead to a lack of activity that makes the situation even worse.
It is really important to help our children distinguish their internal states so that they are able to identify when they feel real hunger and when they are negative emotions.It is also essential to provide them with tools to manage those emotions without having to resort to food or any other destructive behavior. .