Aside from the physical health risks posed to obese children, the emotional risks are obvious. Anyone who thinks that it is the responsibility of other children to become more tolerant is probably morally correct, though living in an unachievable fantasy.
Children cannot help but say what they see, whether said with malicious intent or not, if they notice a child in their class who is overweight, it will at some stage be mentioned.
Of course we can argue that a better and easier solution to the childhood obesity epidemic is to emotionally resource the obese child so that they have self esteem and confidence to such high levels, their emotional resilience cannot be fractured by the taunts of their peers.
The greatest challenge with this particular strategy is that it creates such a huge expectation upon the obese child. We are asking them to behave calmly when faced with teasing, to continue to love themselves when others point out their physical stature and above all, we are asking them to be comfortable about always being, in someway, separate to others.
If you remember being a child and having the experience of being the different one or the odd one out, you’ll probably remember at as a lonely time.
As well as the physical health implications caused by childhood obesity, these children are teased and they are likely to be lonely.
Even for those who go onto develop resilience, or even grow stronger from this experience, the memories will always remain. Hoping that they will become thicker skinned adults is a risky business. They might not. They might end up damaged for life.
I implore any parent or guardian who is reading this article to abandon any previous notion that they had in which they told themselves and their obese child that they are fine “just as they are.” That others should be more tolerant or that their child has a right to make their own (unhealthy) choices. I urge you to dismiss all excuses about their, or your own inability to exercise.
As a nation we have accepted that hitting your child is an unnecessary an largely unsuccessful form of punishment, that smoking in their presence is harmful and that telling them they are useless or stupid is disempowering. What if we began to view the implications to their emotional development when obese, as having the same consequences as these things? Being obese is unnecessary, harmful and disempowering.
If what I am saying is true, then the very important question that follows, is “What are we going to do about it?”
If we leave the responsibility of change with disempowered obese children we will likely not get far. If we leave the responsibility with parents who feel ill equipped to enforce healthier choices for their child we will also, most probably fail. Surely this indicates that this problem cannot be solved within the confines of the family home without strategic and proven intervention from an outside source.