I’ll be honest, writing this article made me feel a little uncomfortable. In the previous articles I have written, I have focused specifically on my chronic pain, and may have briefly mentioned my weight in passing. I have never written a piece specifically about my weight before. As an obese woman with a chronic illness, my weight makes me feel self-conscious. I want to lose weight, however, it is extremely difficult for me. I recently adjusted my diet and have lost a few Kgs so far this year, but it’s slow going.
Obesity is one of the biggest public health threats currently facing the UK. It is also the second biggest human generated burden to the economy, coming after smoking. Obese children are much more likely to become obese in adulthood than children who aren’t. This can lead to significant health issues as well as problems with self-esteem.
According to the RCPH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health), almost 1 in 5 children are overweight or obese when they start primary school. It is estimated that half of all children will be overweight or obese by 2020. While there can be many causes for childhood obesity, it has been found that there is a correlation between deprivation and prevalence in overweight/obesity. In 2015 and 2016, 40% of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared to 27% of children in areas that are not.
I was 7 years old when I was first told I was overweight. This was around the time my chronic pain was starting to become concerning to my parents (it had been continuously brushed off as “growing pains” by doctors). From then on, I struggled with my weight throughout my childhood. I had chronic gastro reflux and I would comfort eat in an attempt to escape the chronic pain I experienced every day (which we now know is the result of Fibromyalgia). I didn’t seem to be able to process when I was full. This made managing my weight as a child very difficult.
It was when puberty hit (about the age of 11) when my weight started rising at what seemed like an uncontrollable rate. My pain levels had risen to a level that I was now disabled, and I was being trialed on heaps of different medications from tramadol to gabapentin in attempts to control it. By the age of 12, I had become obese. I became very self-conscious about my body, a lot of that due to the bullying I received from other students. I was called names like “whale” on top of the bullying I had received for having an invisible disability.
My issue seemed to be that I had a large appetite without having the ability to exercise to balance it out. Simply put, I ate too much, despite my parents trying to control my portions. I still do eat too much. It’s a habit I’m working very hard to overcome. My weight fluctuated throughout my teen years. It seemed that whenever I got settled into an exercise plan and lost a considerable amount of weight, I’d become sick with a pain flare and gain it all again, plus more.
Stereotypes About Obese Children
I have seen many posts on the internet where people say that if a parent “allows” their kid to become obese, then they should be charged with child abuse. I find this ridiculous. My parents did everything they could to try to teach me about healthy eating habits. It is through no fault of theirs that I became obese. Families with obese children need help, not judgement.
Before my chronic pain became a disability, I loved to be active. I did rock climbing, swimming, played netball and enjoyed playing sports like soccer and hockey during P.E. class. I was a part of a marching team (not a marching band, more like army marching) from the age of five until the age of twelve that had weekly training, so I was getting plenty of exercise. I even did child Zumba.
However, my weight kept increasing. One stereotype about obese children is that they sit around playing video games all day. Sure, maybe some do, but I certainly didn’t. In fact, my parents refused to buy us any form of gaming console. We never had an Xbox, a Wii, or a Play Station. We were encouraged to play outside as much as possible, and I definitely did. One thing I have learned from being chronically ill is that you can’t tar an entire group of people with the same brush.
Things I believe may help.
One thing I never learned in school was how to grow my own food. Buying vegetables and fruit can get very expensive, so I would love to have learned how to grow my own food in a garden. Sure, I could do my own research (and I plan to) and learn that way, however, I feel that it would make a huge difference if children were taught this stuff growing up so that by the time they’re adults it’s second nature.
All children should learn how to cook. Some schools teach children to cook as early as 11 years old (if not earlier), which should definitely happen everywhere. Of course, I don’t think children should be forced to become mini master chefs, however, if a child shows interest in what’s being cooked for dinner, they may be more conscious about what they eat.
As said above, obesity in children is likely to result in obesity in adulthood, as it did for me. In order to lose weight lifestyle changes must be made. However, if you are hindered by factors such as budget or chronic illness, that may be easier said than done. All children deserve to be happy and healthy, and I believe that as a society, we can work to change childhood obesity rates as one of the things that challenges that.
About The Author:
Amy Clements is a 19-year-old who has lived with chronic pain, the result of Fibromyalgia, since childhood. In her teens she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in her wrist, which was the result of a netball injury. Amy lives in New Zealand and studies Business part-time at University. She enjoys reading novels and writing. She especially enjoys writing about her experience with chronic illness.