As fall approaches and the kids are going back to school, first-day jitters abound for students everywhere. One thing kids shouldn’t have to worry about? Bullying. Unfortunately, as schools and administrators battle bullies, kids and teens remain susceptible to hurtful or aggressive behavior from other students.
Sadly, the primary reason kids are targeted in schools is obesity or weight-related issues. Before sensitive issues like sexual orientation, academic performance or ethnicity, childhood weight problems rank as the most common motive for bullies.
While weight-based biases are often more pronounced in affluent communities where an ultra-thin physique is most valued, it seems that “fat stigma” is almost universal among developed countries. The community at large often attributes weight-gain to voluntary lifestyle choices rather than a medical condition, and the underlying belief that obese people choose their weight seems to justify poor treatment and discrimination. In fact, some believe that discrimination will act as motivation for overweight people to make better choices.
“What is sad is that there is a solution to this problem,” Dr. Dirk says. “Instead of demanding change in laws or other peoples behavior, it is long overdue to accept obesity as a true medical condition. Obesity has been identified as a real medical condition since 2004. It took the American Medical Association until 2013 to recognize it as a medical condition.”
As a medical condition, obesity directly affects health and day-to-day activities, from students’ classwork to the daily tasks of a demanding job. It takes a toll on one’s heart health, blood sugar levels and, sadly, psychological well-being.
Facing daily discrimination in what should be a safe learning environment isn’t something any child or teenager should have to live with. Instead, kids should be educated on healthy practices like a balanced diet and regular exercise with the help of a doctor or nutritionist. If these changes aren’t enough to combat obesity as a medical condition, there are still options to ensure a healthy lifestyle.
“If your obesity includes, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and high cholesterol, it is time to think of bariatric surgery even sooner,” Dr. Dirk explains. For this reason, Dr. Dirk is one of the few surgeons who chooses to operate on teens to allow them full participation in the day-to-day activities that their friends and peers enjoy. If your child struggles with obesity, remember that they struggle with a medical condition that is treatable with the help of trained experts.