Studies have shown that BMI (body mass index/height-to-weight ratio) is directly related to quality of life. The higher one’s BMI (so the more someone weighs), the lower the quality of life. Factors considered with this relate to physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing. Knowledge of the psychological risks associated with obesity can help individuals struggling with obesity feel less alone, and help provide friends/family more empathy toward those struggling with obesity.
Individuals with obesity cite poor mental and emotional health associated with their being obese. Concerns include: low self-esteem, eating disorders, body image concerns, depression, social isolation, lack of self-confidence, and inability to form and maintain personal relationships.
Social discrimination and stigma associated with obesity are also real, and may lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal and self-harm ideation. This may hinder academic and social functioning.
- Children experience: social isolation, bullying, deliberate exclusion from activities. All of which intensify in high school.
- Adults experience: unfriendly comments from strangers, refusal to hire at a job, fired from a job. Verbal abuse by friends, family, and strangers. Discrimination in employment, education, and healthcare.
- Personal struggles: inability to find clothes that fit, inability to use seatbelts, having to purchase two plane tickets to fly, inability to attend theaters, inability to attend lectures due to desk size.
- Indirect stigma: fear that family and friends are embarrassed of them, fear of public humiliation, witnessing ridicule of other overweight individuals in front of them.
All of these factors make being overweight or obese increasingly difficult, while also providing emotional and physical barriers to make losing the weight so much more difficult. To the individual struggling with weight, patience and self-understand is key. Continued positive self-talk to help improve emotion, ideation, and self-worth. It is easy to get into a negative cycle that only perpetuates the negative self-talk, feelings of self-worth, and increases the weight further. To those trying to help or encourage someone to lose weight, empathy is important. Understand the struggle is there, and the psychological distress and social difficulties make that struggle so much more difficult. Approach with love, kindness, understanding, and gentleness. And never push too hard! We must go at our own pace and know others support without judgement!!