In a recent qualitative study, adolescents with obesity associated their weight gain with their own behaviours and emotions as a response to bullying, yet responsibility for successful weight loss and lifestyle change was attributed to the professional support they received from a weight management program, rather than acknowledging their own contribution.
The study explored the experiences of youth with obesity and their perspectives towards obesity treatment. The youth described their weight gain as disordered patterns of eating triggered by social and emotional factors such as, low self-esteem and feeling stigmatized – reported as a result from bullying. In turn, bullying was associated with reinforcing low self-worth and self-esteem, promoting weight gain. However, when it came to attributing weight loss and lifestyle change, the adolescents in this study consistently attributed success to the treatment received rather than acknowledging their own contribution. This is particularity concerning as it may undermine youths self-worth development and diminish their engagement with the weight loss process.
The researchers propose that this contradiction in responsibility suggests current weight management programs focus on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’ of behaviour change and that the internalization of key messages is not occurring. They advocate that weight management programs must be tailored to the specific needs of adolescents and ways of integrating key messages and practices within their home environment is crucial for adolescents to adhere to weight loss and lifestyle goals.