KING 5's Joyce Taylor talked to Dr. Emily Cooper from the Diabesity Research Foundation and the author of The Metabolic Storm about some new research regarding weight-based bullying in children.
JOYCE: It seems that weight-based bullying in children is the last accepted bias in our society.
DR COOPER: I hear gut-wrenching accounts of children being teased, simply because of their size and it leaves emotional scars that never fade. My adult patients tell me that no matter how successful they become they never forget being teased as a child; always picked last and stared at by others.
About 40% of children are teased by peers and family members, especially children with higher body weight, and girls more than boys. This leads to disordered eating, anxiety, depression, psychological stress, and poor academic performance.
Judging people based on their size is pure discrimination. And most people don't realize that excess weight isn't anyone's fault, it's a symptom of an underlying medical problem with genetic and environmental roots.
JOYCE: Reagan (whose story appears in the video above) had an underlying problem that was affecting her weight – she had no control of it.
DR COOPER: Reagan did everything right, but her weight was still elevated. It is so hard for parents to know what to do and they tried their best. She had a common problem. Her hormone insulin was out of balance. Now, with treatment, her height and weight are becoming more proportional as she grows.
JOYCE: So, dieting and exercise would never solve this. In fact, Reagan is very athletic, participating in basketball and soccer. Kids are put on diets but they can actually make it worse, can't they?
DR COOPER: Studies show that factors other than diet-and-exercise are related to abnormal weight gain in girls, including genetics, sleep deficits and exposure to foods and beverages containing the chemical, BPA in their packaging.
The diet industry profits by telling us the latest diet is the answer. The media, from celebrities endorsing new diet trends to magazines full of underweight, airbrushed models leaves kids particularly vulnerable to these messages.
JOYCE: What do you tell parents if they notice their child may be gaining weight too rapidly?
DR COOPER: Some extra body fat during the growth spurt is normal but if your child's weight seems persistently out-of-proportion make sure they are screened for insulin resistance and prediabetes.
Even healthcare professionals may recommend low-calorie diets and exercise. While good nutrition is important for everyone, deprivation diets and under-fueled exercise slow metabolism. Starting that cycle in childhood can have lasting consequences so studies linking childhood dieting with adult obesity are not at all surprising.