Childhood is a tender stage wherein every comment, criticism, appreciation or remark leaves an impression deep within their minds. The world is not filled only with people who love and care but is also an abode for those who mock, bully and tease. Such reckless actions are predominantly seen in school-going children who are major victims to bullying or name-calling. Schools especially can be a brutal place for kids with obesity/overweight as they become the laughingstock of other students, called by names such as fatso, mocked, ridiculed and teased. Such actions and behaviors rip apart a child’s heart which basically expects love and care.
Pro bono Teasing?
Until now, we have heard many suggestions and theories that making fun of an overweight/obese child prompts them to make diet and health-related changes to lose weight and improve their lifestyle but a recent study proves just the opposite. Researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) carried out a long-term study on the effects of teasing on obese children and published its result in the reputed journal Pediatric Obesity.
Obesity among children is growing to be a major problem and the World Health Organization has estimated that there would be more than 70 million obese children in this world by 2025. Apart from severe health problems weight changes affect a child’s mental and emotional well-being to a great extent.
The research by NIH was conducted on 110 children whose average age was around 11-12 years. Either these children themselves were overweight or had parents both of whom were overweight. Overweight parents were also considered as a part of the study because there are evidences showing that children of overweight parents tend to grow into obese adults later in life. At the start of the study these children filled out a questionnaire asking them details whether they were teased anytime about their weight. Almost 62% reported positively that they were indeed teased about their weight at least once and 21% kids who were not overweight but at a risk of weight gain also reported being subjected to such acts of mockery. The researchers followed-up on the kids for 15 years with an annual visit.
Irrespective of their weight at the beginning of the study kids who were teased often about their weight gained 33% more body mass and 91% more fat per year compared to kids who were not teased. Those kids who were teased more about their weight gained more weight (approximately 0.20 kg more per year) and body fat over time, according to the authors of the study.
Consequences of Weight-related Bullying
Apart from weight gain, teasing and bullying increase stress levels promoting release of cortisol hormone that stimulates appetite and also increases the risk of depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety lay the path for eating disorders, stimulate the individual to binge eat and makes the kid stay away from physical activity. These kids start avoiding gym classes, swimming sessions and sports fearing that other children who make fun of their attire and size. This withdrawal increases weight gain possibilities much more. Read more about eating disorders and their effect by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Body shaming has become dominant and this study proves it once again where more than 60% overweight children reported bullying. Sadly, it’s not only students who tease their fellow classmates or friends but also teachers and parents are involved in this. Parents and teachers must take the first step towards stopping this attitude. They must help kids understand how their teasing can make the overweight kid feel isolated and hurt his/her feelings, teach the overweight kid different strategies and ways to cope with such unruly behavior, encourage them to eclipse such teasing and move forward in life. Parents can be role models and take the initiative to improve their kid’s health-maybe go out for a walk together, play a game of football or plan a trek trip over the weekend.
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