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Obesity affects 17% of children and adolescents in the US; a figure which is three times the prevalence of the previous generation. This is a serious health concern because obesity can lead to the early onset of diseases and illnesses such as diabetes or heart problems. One of the major causes of obesity among kids can be traced down to psychological or mental issues. Identifying these problems and addressing them can help children overcome being overweight or obese and attain a healthy lifestyle.

Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

Research shows that more than 1 in 20 children and adolescents have anxiety or depression. Children may be anxious due to different reasons. They might be unsure of their home situation especially if they are in foster care. Consequently, they will also be stressed if there are things in their life that are disrupted, that is, moving from one home to another. Another psychological trigger is the uncertainty of their family life whether they need to be placed in foster care or find a permanent home.

Parents who are separating or divorcing is also another source of anxiety. Without this stability and predicted loss of love, children are more likely to turn to other stuff to make up for the missing things in their lives. They might act out, run away, or turn to food as a way to cope with inner turmoil. They might also feel depressed not only because of family issues, but also with the way they look, their school and social life and other things.

Linking Psychological Problems with Obesity

Evidence shows that there is a link between psychological problems and obesity. If your child is constantly experiencing anxiety, this will lead to increased cortisol levels which increases appetite and changes metabolism. It tells the body to store fat in the stomach and eventually cause weight gain. It can also lead to chronic complications such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Fatigue, impaired brain function, infections are the other consequences of high cortisol levels due to anxiety and depression.

There is also a connection between stress and obesity with exposure dating back as early as being in the uterus. The causes of stress among children may include poverty, abuse, food insecurity, or even a poor relationship with a caregiver. Chronic exposure to stress contributes to a high risk for obesity. It affects their physical activity, eating habits, and other health behaviors.

The Importance of Being Physically and Mentally Healthy

Parents and primary caregivers can help a child who is overweight or obese overcome their problems. Tackling the psychological triggers involve talking to them about their issues. While eliminating anxiety, stress, or depression is ideal, this may not be possible immediately in the short term. Hence, managing the symptoms of stress or anxiety is critical. Talk to them about expectations and express confidence that things will be okay or that they can manage it.

There is also evidence linking family lifestyle and childhood obesity. Family dynamics affect diets, exercise, and physical activity. Children from advantaged households are more likely exposed to healthier lifestyles than those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Encouraging your kids to be fit and healthy also start with you as the role model. Teach good and healthy eating habits. In addition to a well-balanced diet, make exercise and physical activity a part of daily life. Limit screen time and ensure that they get adequate sleep.

Obesity and being overweight are problems that may lead to unfortunate consequences if they are not addressed immediately. Identifying the psychological triggers and responding to them as well as good nutrition, exercise, and physical activity can help your child manage and sustain healthy weight levels.


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