Adolescent struggles worse for obese teens

Adolescence pretty much sucks across the board. There's pretty much no getting around it. You're hormonal. You have zits. Your body is changing. The social pecking order is being cemented, and you become remarkably certain of where you are on it.

And there aren't very many places for fat kids. It was hard enough before, but with so much emphasis on the "obesity epidemic" now, fat is equated with ill health, sloth, and weakness. Which isn't good news.

A recent study in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found "that traits such as obesity during adolescence that may increase the risk of attacks from peers can result in health and psychological struggles that remain through young adulthood." The authors studied not just bullying, but a wider phenomenon known as peer victimization.

[Researchers] examined peer victimization as a predictor of depression and body mass index in obese and non-obese adolescents. Adams explains that while peer victimization is comparable to bullying, bullying behavior typically involves one-on-one targeting while peer victimization can also entail victimization that can come from the peer group in general.

The study found that obese teens who were victimized by their peers were more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, low body acceptance, and depression.

The authors conclude:

"Victimization may not only reinforce the negative self-concepts that a risk factor for victimization, such as obesity, may cause, but a risk factor for victimization, such as obesity, will also make it more likely that the adolescent will be victimized indefinitely. In other words, the risk factors that strengthen the links in this pathway will also keep the pathway intact because it is also a risk factor for being victimized," Adams states in the report.

"Victimization may not only reinforce the negative self-concepts that a risk factor for victimization, such as obesity, may cause, but a risk factor for victimization, such as obesity, will also make it more likely that the adolescent will be victimized indefinitely. In other words, the risk factors that strengthen the links in this pathway will also keep the pathway intact because it is also a risk factor for being victimized," Adams states in the report.

To me, this seems to indicate that the health problems seemingly associated with obesity aren't the result of actually being fat. They also have a lot to do with the stress of feeling vulnerable, not accepted as a person, and ashamed of their weight.

Maybe by putting less emphasis on weight and more on health and happiness, the so-called obesity epidemic may just correct itself. And millions of teens may find adolescence just a tiny bit easier.

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1 comment:

Willow said...

Hi Carrie, I haven't been in evidence around the blogs for a long time, but I still read yours pretty often. I'm dealing with recovery of a completely different nature currently, so I didn't have much to add for a while there.

This topic really hits home for me though, because I'm struggling with seeing my 11 year old exactly where I was at her age. Overweight, self-conscious, low-self-esteem etc. The best my disordered mind can come up with is to reassure her that big, big changes are in store in the next few years for her body and to be patient with herself.

Of course, for me this was the beginning of many years of severely ED-filled behavior and frame of mind. I feel like I am perhaps the worst person to be doling out advice to her.

It's a real conundrum, for sure. Thanks for your post.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote



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