Ask The Experts: What do you know about weight bias?

Dr. Barry Panzer, Ph.D, ACSW, BCD
Mental Health Consultant, Live Light Live Right

Overweight and obesity in childhood can be the first step in the development of diabetes, heart disease and other serious adult health problems. However, weight bias – the emotional and sometimes physical mistreatment due to excess weight – can begin early and last a lifetime. Teasing, name calling, exclusion form athletic and social activities by peers and physical bullying have been regarded as the main cause of psychological and social problems in children with obesity.

Your child may not always tell you about this mistreatment, but it may be reflected in: a change in school performance, reluctance to go to school, sleep problems, nervousness or sadness. Since this abuse is so common, it is important that you periodically ask your child about this.

However, asking is not enough. If your child is being victimized, find out the details. Acknowledge how upsetting and embarrassing this can be. Offer to talk with the teacher or principal if necessary. Parents can also help their children directly by teaching them how to handle the teasing. Three methods are explained in the Live Light Live Right “Tips for Coping with Teasing.” A useful book with many suggestions is Easing the Teasing, by Judy Freedman.

As always, please do not hesitate to let the LLLR staff know about this problem.

To learn more about this topic, read the recent publication by Dr. Panzer and Dr. Dhuper
Designing a group therapy program for coping