The Psychological Effects of Childhood Obesity

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  • Topic: Obesity, Nutrition, Body shape
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The Psychological Effects of Childhood Obesity
Leah McGrath
ENG122: English Composition II
Prof. Jonathan Berohn
September 2, 2012

In recent years there have been more and more studies looking into the rise in childhood obesity. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Controle and Prevention in 2006 “Globally, 22 million children under the age of 5 years are overweight.” (Cornette, 2008) There are many ways to determine obesity in a child however for the purposes of this paper it will refer to children between the ages of three to eighteen whose Body Mass Index, BMI exceeds the hundredth percentile for their age group. There is no specific reason that describes either why a child would fall into this group or why this number is on the rise. The physical disadvantages of obesity have been well documented. While the psychological effects often seem to be bypassed in most studies. Childhood obesity has many effects of the psyche of a child and those effects can and frequently will carry on into adulthood.

There are traditionally three schools of thought about what causes childhood obesity. The first is excessive eating. There are approximately three thousand five hundred calories in a pound so if a child takes in an extra fifty to one hundred calories every day it could lead to a yearly weight gain of five to ten pounds. This does not seem significant until accumulation is allowed for, an addition of fifty pounds to a child’s weight between the ages of thirteen and eighteen is substantial.

The second is a lack of exercise. In order to maintain a healthy weight a body must burn as many calories as it takes in. Society has become increasingly dependent on technology and thus has place higher value on computer skills then athletic or manual labor skills. Many school systems in the United States have cut funding for physical education programs in favor of promoting technology-based learning. For some children this is the only exercise they will get all day, for when they arrive home they almost immediately watch television or play video games. As a side effect, this also promotes lethargy in children making it more difficult for them to burn the necessary calories to maintain a healthy weight.

The third, and sometimes most popular, reason people chose to explain childhood obesity tends to be the least likely reason for it, genetics. It is in fact very rare that a child is overweight due to illness or genetic disorder. Parentage does have a large influence on obesity, but it is less to do with genetics and more to do with health and fitness habits. If a child comes from a family that is overweight, they are more likely to be overweight as well because they will mimic their parent’s behavior in both diet and exercise. If the parent sets an example of daily exercise and a balanced diet the child will be far less likely to become overweight. However, there are some genetic disorders that will make it far more difficult for a child to burn calories such as hypothyroidism, a disorder that causes the body’s metabolism to slow and store fats and calories much easier than an individual that is unaffected with the disorder.

When a child is obese, they are much more likely to suffer from disorders such as hyperglycemia, or diabetes, heart disease, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer like colon cancer. Diabetes is a disorder is which the pancreas cannot produce a sufficient supply of insulin, the chemical responsible in the digestion of sugars. This disorder if not closely watched can cause blindness, liver failure and limb amputation due to increased likelihood of festering wounds on the feet and hands. There have been only a few studies that have delved deeply into the connection between level of happiness and weight in a child. Those studies have found a definite link between obesity and some mental and emotional disorders. “The finding that obese individuals experience greater interpersonal...
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