The mental and behavioral factors experts say can affect children dealing with obesity

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – If your child is struggling with weight, he or she is also likely struggling in other areas of life. A child who is dealing with obesity can suffer more than just the physical hardships.

Medical Director Jeffrey Cluver with the Behavioral Health Program at Trident Health says it also plays a role in their mental health and behavior.

“The behavioral impacts on a child who is overweight can include things such as being picked on or bullied at school,” said Doctor Cluver.

Doctor Cluver argues this could make kids less likely to engage in activities with other kids. He said that in turn makes it more difficult for them to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“There’s also implications such as anxiety, depression, and other things that can be symptoms or lead to full-blown disorders that have a high co-morbidity with being overweight,” said Doctor Cluver.

Doctor Cluver said from a parents perspective, it’s a balancing act.

“But also instilling in them an interest in being healthy,” Doctor Cluver said. “Being physically active. Eating healthy. Getting enough sleep, and doing all these things that are good for us that can limit the rates of obesity.”

But Doctor Cluver notes it’s important not to put too much attention on body weight and shapes. This can create stress or anxiety as well.

Doctor Cluver suggests that striking a balance means talking about it. He recommends focusing on the health part and that it’s about being active and eating well because that is what’s good for your body and your brain.

“It’s always interesting to think about in a society where we’re inundated with messages about how we should look, that we’re also dealing with higher rates of obesity and we never have before and then more so than most countries do,” said Doctor Cluver.

Doctor Cluver points out that if your kid becomes more anxious, this could cause them to engage in unhealthy behaviors to help cope, which can create a downward spiral.

Instead, Doctor Cluver advises attacking the problem head-on and addressing the issue.

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