Bullying and Obesity

Bullying is the name given to actions where a child is being exposed repeatedly over time to negative behavior from one or more persons. These negative behaviors can be emotional, verbal or physical. Due to publicity and public awareness more people are aware of bullying. It is due to this awareness that more people are discussing the importance of recognizing bullying and pursuing ways to teach social reciprocity and communication to allow children to interact without leaving one child feeling “bad.” When a child repeatedly feels “bad” after an interaction with one or more people this is a sign of bullying.

Children tend to be bullied when they are perceived as outliers. This may be due to what they eat, how they act and how they look. One specific component of appearance is weight. Studies have shown children who are obese are more likely to be bullied then children who are not obese. It is not clear whether being bullied causes children to gain weight, but even with more children being identified as being obese this has not lessened the risk for obese children being bullied. Obese children continue to be bullied.

Children who bully tend to have deficiencies in healthy social skills or have learned how to manipulate social situations to their advantage to attain what they desire. These patterns may have been learned at home where parents use bullying tactics to motivate their child are it may have been learned outside the home. Bullying is done at the expense of another’s self-esteem. Children who bully often turn to obese children to perform their bullying upon. It is also important for parents, doctors and teachers not to become partners to bullying behavior. The risk of being bullied should never be used as a threat or fear tactic to eliminate obesity. The pursuit of a healthy lifestyle and not the fear of obesity or illness must be the prime messages given to every child who is obese or overweight.

Obese children and teens are often taught obesity is their fault and is a sign of laziness and a lack of interest in being healthy. Obesity is not a sign of failure and does not signify failure or lack of effort. It does signal the need for comprehensive encouragement to eat healthy and exercise more often.