A chronicle of the painful, long-term effects of being a “fat kid.”
With the rise of childhood obesity rates comes a new set of challenges for families and communities, write Warren and Smalley, co-directors of the Rural Health Research Institute at Georgia Southern University. Obese children face a combination of physical and psychological problems resulting in what the authors call “The Fat Kid Syndrome.” Not only do these children often suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, but they may also develop low self-esteem and compulsive behaviors. Further, they will likely experience depression and anxiety in greater numbers than their thinner peers—not to mention discrimination based on their appearance from colleagues, potential mates and even employers. The authors touch briefly on the causes of childhood obesity, including easy access to fast food, increased portion sizes and decreased emphasis on exercise. They also argue that parents are unwilling to speak honestly to their children about weight and that even doctors are instructed to avoid the topic out of fear of insulting or upsetting children. Warren and Smalley focus on raising awareness about the dangers of childhood obesity, and a short concluding chapter offers advice on how to help children and their families. They also include a helpful resource guide that includes nutrition, fitness and weight-control programs geared toward children. While childhood obesity is a trendy topic, even the authors acknowledge that there hasn’t been enough time to research the long-term effects of the current epidemic. Therefore, much of what Smalley and Warren write about is speculation. They also come dangerously close to overgeneralizing the experience of obesity; certainly not all “fat kids” will suffer the extremes they describe.
A flawed but useful call to arms in the fight against childhood obesity.