Fat Kids Feeling Pain: Looking inside childhood obesity
by Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach
I KNOW ABOUT THIS SUBJECT DIRECTLY, since during most of my school years I was that fat kid. Teasing and joking about my weight was a daily issue, so I learned to laugh on the outside, and eventually to ignore the pain on the inside. When the discouragement and loneliness would creep in, I could just cover it up with food. Not just any food, mind you— sweet-salty-crunchy food, like chips and snack cakes.
I didn’t know it was called “comfort food” in those days, but I knew that it brought relief for a while. I also knew that was better than having to deal with the anger and resentment of how I was rejected and humiliated by my classmates.
Even though I hated being the fat kid, after a while I stopped trying to diet. I would always fail, which led to more pain, hurt and embarrassment. Yes, I thought about being fat constantly, but never told my family or anyone else about my feelings of despair. I hated how food controlled my life, but that’s just the way it was. I accepted the role of being the lonely, fat kid and tried to cope any way I could.
My dysfunctional eating pattern felt normal to me, and it is still extremely common among overweight boys and girls.
I don’t like my body…
I eat to feel good…
I feel bad…leading back to…
I don’t like my body…
This destructive cycle followed me through elementary, middle and high school, and was a way to cover up the anxiety, loneliness, boredom, stress, anger and sadness that often felt as though they were crushing me to death from the inside out. As counselors and parents, we can, and must, be aware of the emotional connection between food and mood. Eating disorders are more common than ever in children and involve four distinct characteristics.
1. Lack of self-worth— “I don’t like myself ”
2. Lack of socialization— “I don’t have any friends”
3. Lack of emotional expression— “I’m okay, just hungry”
4. Lack of inner peace— “I’m never happy”
The more of these symptoms you notice in children who are excessively overweight, the more likely you are dealing with a very hurt and lonely child. Take a chance to talk to them, or better yet, tell your story of dealing with emotions in a healthy way and reach out to encourage that guy or gal who is desperate for anyone to accept them in spite of their body size. Love them just the way that they are now, and then gently guide them back to a healthy way of dealing with emotions, and eventually food. Start with emotional control and the physical control will follow.
Remember that lectures don’t work, but loving guidance does. Make the time to reach out with a message of hope. It will make a huge difference for the rest of their lives. Thankfully, my desperate feelings led me to accept Jesus Christ, the one friend who would never reject me because of my weight. With the love of my family, the guidance of a wise pastoral counselor, and God’s grace, I was able to deal with the stuffed emotions and learn to manage feelings without food. Now I have a chance to share my story with thousands of school age kids who use food to cope with pain in their lives—to challenge them to speak up instead of snack up, and to express their emotions instead of hiding them under a mountain of cookies and chocolate ice cream. I hope that you will take time to share that message of hope and acceptance to the hurting kids in your community as well.
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About the author- Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture. Access more counseling and coaching resources designed to save you time by solving stressful situations by visiting his counseling blog with over 150 complimentary articles and special reports at www.LifeWorksGroup.org