How Obesity Can Affect Your Teen’s Self Esteem

Many parents and doctors focus on the physical effects of teen obesity, but what about the psychological and emotional ramifications? Obesity can lead to heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. However, the mental and emotional effects of child obesity on self esteem can be even more immense. For this reason, depression, anxiety, and poor body image resulting from obesity should be the greater concern for most.

Studies have shown that obese teens have considerably lower self esteem than their non-obese peers. The disparity in self-confidence is most prevalent around age 14, which also happens to be a critical time for teens because it is when they develop their sense of self worth. Young teenagers around this age are also more often subjected to teasing, taunting, and poor treatment. This can result in depression or anger issues.

Teens with low self-esteem often feel lonely, nervous, or are generally sad. They are also more inclined to experiment with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Withdrawal from social activities and family, in addition to loss of interest in favorite hobbies, is a clear indication that something is awry.

There are a variety of factors that have contributed to a rise in obesity among teens. While genetics play a role for some, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are often the cause for most. Teens today consume too much junk food and sugary drinks and don’t exercise as much as in previous generations. Temptations from television, video games, and computers are often cited as the reasons for a decrease in physical activity.

Professionals suggest that the parents of children who are dealing with teen obesity engage their children in an open dialogue about the issue. Together, parents and teens can work on a plan that is attainable. Efforts to fix the problem should focus on lifestyle issues rather than a calorie count because attempting to impose a strict diet could contribute to the teen’s poor self esteem. Incorporate the assistance of a medical professional, but allow the teen to take charge during visits in an effort to build confidence. Parents should encourage and participate in improving diet and increasing activity as well.

Jamaica Hospital has a variety of services to help those facing the issue of teen obesity, including nutritional counseling and adolescent mental health services. Speak to your child’s pediatrician or make an appointment at Jamaica Hospital’s Pediatric Ambulatory Care Center at 718-206-7001 to find the best treatment options for your teen.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.