Go to contents

Six Out of Ten Obese Kids Remain Obese Even When They Reach Adulthood

Six Out of Ten Obese Kids Remain Obese Even When They Reach Adulthood

Posted March. 14, 2004 23:05,   


“Mom, do you love me even though I am fat?”

Seong-won, a third grader living in Seoul, asked his mother this question out of the blue. He started to gain weight after living abroad for two years since he turned six years old.

He stands 130-cm tall and weighs 43kg. These days, he asks his mother several times a day if he is too fat. His mother feels heartache. It is not only because Seong-won’s teacher called her one day and said that he hits his friends and takes away their stuff at school. Seong-won tells her that it is because his friends do not play with him, making fun of his weight.

Hyun-soo, a 13-year-old living in Anyang, Gyeonggi, spends his time after school playing computer games, reading comic books, and watching TV at home. He doesn’t go to a private academy as all the other children do. He hates it because children there call him a “fatso.”

Hyun-soo says the same thing when his mother tries to send him to swimming school or a gym to help him lose weight. A recent health check-up showed that Hyun-soo has a fatty liver and a rather high cholesterol level. She is very worried about it.

Childhood obesity is a big problem. According to the Seoul School Public Health Center, children diagnosed with obesity between 1979 and 1996 in Seoul increased by 6.4 percent for boys (from 3.6 percent in 1979 to 23 percent in 1996) and 4.7 percent for girls (from 3.3 percent in 1979 to 15.5 percent in 1996).

Overweight children tend prefer greasy food and eat larger portions than those who are not overweight, especially consuming large dinners; they also eat faster.

Among obese children, the percentage of those who remain obese is 60 to 70 percent higher when they grow up. Their body fat increases at a faster rate and their life practices are shaped during this period.

According to a national health and nutrition survey in 1998, the rates of high blood pressure and hyperlipemia occurrence increase by 6.3 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively, if they are obese during their childhood from 10-year-old to 19-year-old compared to those avoiding obesity.

Recent studies in the U.S. showed an obese child is twice as likely to get diabetes compared to a child with normal weight.

The obesity hurts, too. “I’m worried that my friend will not play with me.” “I hit a kid until his nose bled because he called me fat.” “I think a fat person is a lazy person.” “I am not confident.”

The problem is that obesity can cause psychological disorders for children like Hyun-soo and Seong-won.

A foreign study showed that 90 percent of obese kids think that they would be teased less and hit less often by other children if they lose weight. Also, 69 percent of them think that they will have more friends if they become thinner. These statistics show that obese children have low self-confidence compared to children with normal weight, and demonstrate signs of depression and low self-image.

This low self-confidence affects the children in such a way that they feel even their parents or teachers think negatively towards them.

The negative self-image is the same thing. Weight is something manageable, but they relate their heavy weight to laziness.

The children are afraid that they will be called lazy or out of control by people around them. This gives rise to the risk that the kids will fall prey to manic depression.

Therefore, the parents should abandon their unconscious negative attitude towards their obese children and treat them no differently than other children.

(Reference= Professor of Family Medicine Park Kyoung-hee at Hallim University, Professor of Family Medicine Song Eun-ju at Gangbuk Samsung Hospital, Director Huh Shi-young at Sharing Obesity & Eating Disorder Clinic)

Jin-Han Lee likeday@donga.com