It is a well documented fact that kids can be very mean. The child in the class that has something different from someone else – glasses, red hair, a weight problem, etc. – is often the target for ridicule. When that difference is weight and bullying results, that individual may have to deal with eating disorders later in life.
A recent news release shows that a number of patients at an eating disorder treatment program point to being teased or bullied about their weight as the trigger for their eating disorder. As overweight children are often teased about their weight, they are also more often to be reluctant to exercise or participate in any type of physical activity.
When weight bullying happens to children, it can perpetuate a cycle of a lack of exercise and using food as a source of comfort, according to Dena Cabrera, PsyD. When this happens in the pre-teen years for a child, they are much more susceptible to the development of a negative self image and poor body dissatisfaction. This disposition can last well into adulthood.
Cabrera adds that bullying is abuse and many kids feel unsafe in school or in their own bodies. Teasing someone because of their weight appears to be a socially acceptable form of prejudice. The constant negative comments about weight and size are often shared and regarded without sensitivity.
To reverse this trend, Cabrera suggests that parents recognize the signs of weight bullying; create a healthy home environment; implement a zero tolerance policy at home with family members; teach assertive and social skills; build resilience and self-esteem; and gather support from teachers, counselors and administrators.