Effects of Obesity on Self-esteem
Obesity is classified as a complex metabolic disorder that is characterized by abnormally high body mass index. Generally body mass index of 25 or low is considered optimal for health and wellness. You can calculate your BMI by this formula :
Body weight (in kg)/ height in meters^2
In certain genetically susceptible individuals, body mass index can be as high as 28 or above. Obese individuals have excessive accumulation of fat deposits that may increase the risk of several health related issues like cardiovascular illnesses, atherosclerosis, deep venous thrombosis, diabetes, and hypertension. Most importantly, obesity or weight related issues also affects the self-esteem, confidence and emotional health of the individuals.
It is imperative to understand that weight loss can be effectively achieved with modification of lifestyle, behavioral changes, incorporation of functional physical activities and dietary regulations.
Are you aware that:
- More than 35% of the entire US population is suffering from obesity or related metabolic issues? This corresponds to more than 78.6 million Americans (1).
- Obese individuals are more likely to suffer from emotional, physical and psycho-social issues. According to data reported by Centers for Disease Control (2), the healthcare cost or medical bills of obese individuals are approximately $1,429 higher per year than normal-weight individuals.
- The economic cost of obesity in United States has exceeded $147 billion per year.
Does Obesity Affects Self Esteem?
Research and clinical studies have statistically proven that advanced obesity affects the physical health, as well as emotional and psychological health. Obese adults are less confident, emotionally unstable and socially inactive. According to a new study published in the peer reviewed The Korean Journal of Obesity (3) investigators reported that the prevalence of depressive symptoms in obese women is 21.2%.
Here’s how obesity can affect self-esteem:
Obese individuals are treated differently in social gathering. We live in a society where physical appearance determines job security, high wages, promotions at work and other social and economical benefits. Obese individuals are more likely to face social discrimination; for example:
- They are more likely to be bullied at school or in the workplace setting.
- Most obese individuals experience a hard time in making friends or approaching individuals of opposite sex
Poor Image of Self
Most obese individuals feel ‘ugly’ or unattractive. This greatly affects their confidence to interact or socialize with people. Consequently, these individuals tend to be loners and socially awkward. Needless to say that such behavior further aggravates the issue of obesity by:
- Discouraging these individuals to go out and engage in social interactions (outdoor activities)
- Encourage them to stay indoors and engage in compulsive eating and sedentary behaviors like watching television or playing video games.
Guilt or Embarrassment Due to Low Productivity
Data indicates that obese individuals avoid limelight which reflects in a number of ways. Most over-weight adults avoid sports related activities or other fun stuff to limit social interactions or a lot of attention. This could also be due to health issues like inability to run fast, sleep apnea, excessive sweating or other obesity related health issues. Consequently, these individuals feel less productive and useful as compared to peers and develop guilt and low self-esteem.
Complications of Low Self-Esteem in Obese Individuals
It is very important to boost the confidence and self-esteem in obese individuals in order to prevent complications. Healthcare providers advise parents or loved-ones to identify the factors that are promoting obesity, instead of criticizing or ignoring obese members of the family. For example, in certain families, obesity is mainly due to inherited metabolic conditions or as a complication of a primary health issue.
Interventions should be sought to prevent complications like:
- Mood disorders: Obese adolescents develop mood disorders (anger, anxiety, and aggression or conduct disorders) to hide their frustration or low self-esteem.
- Depression or anxiety disorders: poorly addressed self-esteem often culminates in depression, sadness or generalized anxiety disorders.
- Eating disorders: Obese individuals are more likely to develop eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia to artificially facilitate weight loss.
- Utilization of unhealthy means to lose weight: Adolescents or young adults are more likely to adopt unhealthy (or in some cases, hazardous) practice to lose weight, by use of laxatives, diuretics, bariatric surgeries, weight loss pills and other illegal supplements that can lead to systemic damage, electrolyte imbalance or even death in extreme cases.
Study reported in peer reviewed journal Comprehensive Psychiatry (4) concluded that:
“The findings showed that 4 domains of interpersonal problems were associated with binge behaviors and self-esteem in obese participants. Moreover, the relationship between binge behaviors and interpersonal problems was partially mediated by self-esteem”
For best results, it is best to seek professional help to identify the causes, pathophysiological factors, metabolic influence and management options in order to address obesity and related complications.
- Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA, 311(8), 806-814.
- Finkelstein, E. A., Trogdon, J. G., Cohen, J. W., & Dietz, W. (2009). Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer-and service-specific estimates. Health affairs, 28(5), w822-w831.
- Son, Y. J., & Kim, G. (2012). The relationship between obesity, self-esteem and depressive symptoms of adult women in Korea. The Korean Journal of Obesity, 21(2), 89-98.
- Lo Coco, G., Gullo, S., Salerno, L., & Iacoponelli, R. (2011). The association among interpersonal problems, binge behaviors, and self-esteem, in the assessment of obese individuals. Comprehensive psychiatry, 52(2), 164-170.