Obesity has become a stigma, and there is nothing new about it. While there may have risen many groups of people who are working to defend so many marginalized groups, obesity, however, remains woefully undefended. India is home to the second highest number of overweight children in the world, second only to China. From being bullied at school to being commented upon at home, there are a number of ways that obese children are discriminated against.
What is “Weight Stigma”?
The negative and often unfair beliefs of a society regarding overweight individuals is referred to as weight stigma. It can often be seen in the form of mockery, teasing, bullying or even derogatory language. This can even result in physical stigma and discrimination. Obese children often face a lot of these problems in school and on playgrounds. Society has a set notion of how one should look, anything that is even the slightest bit different from the norm is perceived as weird. These barriers that society sets up often fuel the stigma that comes to be associated with obesity.
This stigma often manifests in many different ways, it can be physical, emotional, verbal or even simply related to buying certain products. The subtle discrimination can leave some lasting scars on the mind of young children.
Instances of Social Stigma for Obese Children
Overweight children with normal weight siblings or cousins often find it difficult to adjust. Things get even worse when there is teasing and genial bullying at home. Children who feel that teasing and bullying them about their weight is par for the course often manifest symptoms of low self-esteem and even depression. It is important to sensitize children about the harm they are causing when they bully and tease someone regarding their weight.
Things can get really out of hand at school. The playground is one of the meanest places for a child to be in especially when they are overweight. In some cases even teachers are not exempt from this behaviour. It is important for both teachers and fellow students to understand that teasing someone for their weight is one of the lowest things possible. It not only hurts the child being teased, it can also set them up for long-term psychological issues.
Consequences of Social Discrimination
Children who are discriminated against because of their weight often fall prey to serious psychological issues. From anxiety to depression, they face a number of problems simply because society decided that they don’t look the way they are supposed to. Young children when exposed to this behaviour for long often internalize these markers and come to believe this to be normal. This is exactly why many overweight children often laugh along with the jokes being cracked on their weight. This normalization is one of the worst things that can happen and it leads to an ingrained sense of a lack of self-worth.
This stigma can lead to a vicious cycle of emotional eating and further weight gain in children. In extreme cases, fat shaming has also led to suicides around the world.
As parents of overweight children it is important we help them build their self confidence and help break the vicious cycle of stress eating due to social discrimination. Building healthy habits as a family and losing weight the right way and becoming healthy can help your child change themselves and gain confidence in their ability to change for the better.