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Childhood Obesity Promotes Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a risk factor for poor mental health, especially anxiety and depression.

A new study by Wang and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, published in Health Reports, reveals the importance of childhood obesity on the development of self-esteem.

Based on the data are from cycles 1, 2 and 3 of the Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, children who were obese at baseline had almost twice the odds of reporting low self-esteem four years later, compared with children of normal body weight. In contrast, baseline self-esteem was not associated with body weight status two or four years later.

The authors conclude that the current childhood obesity epidemic may trigger an increase in the population prevalence of low self-esteem in the future. Thus, the curent childhood obesity epidemic may increase the prevalence of not only chronic diseases, but also poor mental health.

Blaming, harassing, bullying and stigmatizing kids with excess weight will certainly do little to boost their self-esteem and virtually nothing to help them cope with their excess weight.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. I am left wondering if it is childhood obesity itself that leads to low self-esteem, or if it is the way fatness is regarded and treated, and fat hatred is tolerated that leads to low self-esteem. While it’s important for children of all sizes to be active and eat well, there will always be those children who are fatter than average on the curve — and even if the curve has shifted, the bias against fatness remains intense. Children are very astute at applying the biases of adults to their smaller worlds in very cruel ways. We will never have 0% childhood obesity, some children are just built larger, and those who are not could certainly not be blamed for their own size, so it is essential that if we are to have a healthy population, fat hatred be addressed the way that other biases are adressed (not that we don’t have work to do about other biases, as well).
    Studies have shown that self-esteem and weight do vary in the U.S. among girls depending on racial/ethnic background, and girls can emerge with higher self-esteem (this is regarded as a problem because somehow it’s wrong for fat girls to have high self-esteem! They must have warped body images!).
    Here’s one article (qualitative research, but I know there are others):
    Higher self-esteem can be a basis for better self care. We don’t, on a population basis, yet know what can make people less fat, so it is better to focus on what can be done so fatter people have better health. We know that physical activity, preventive care screenings, access to healthier foods are likely to contribute to improved health for the population, and reducing fat hatred is important in allowing people of all sizes to access these resources.

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  2. I understand that feeling when you feel uneasy about your appearance. It prohibits your child from social events and the only friend they can count on is food. I think its important to enhance their esteem by providing them with a healthy lifestyle.

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