Understanding Obesity and Self-Esteem: What Your Weight in Middle School Says About You Now

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This poster session will afford participants a didactic interchange on how their body weight and self-esteem in middle school impacts their lives today. Public health educators are constantly challenged to apply lessons learned from the past to create meaningful prevention messages for current generations of children and adolescents. Obesity is a major public health concern (Hurt, Kulisek, Buchanan, & McClave, 2010), with obesity rates in children and adolescents as one of the most global consequential Public Health problems of the 21st century (WHO, 2016). Obesity carries co-morbidities including propensity of low self-esteem (Franklin et al, 2006; Hesketh et al., 2004; Strauss 2000). Using the Theory of Planned Behavior, a triangulation mixed-methods study was implemented using college students to retrospectively report on weight perception of self and body self-esteem both at middle school age and currently (n=185). Sampling methodology employed was random, cluster sampling. Recorded middle-school BMI indicated 20% of participants as overweight and obese (n=37) while current BMI had 44.3% classified as overweight and obese. Contrary to the calculated BMI, 64.9% described themselves as normal weight in middle school (n=120) 65.9% described themselves as normal weight currently (n=122). Current BMI is significantly associated with middle school BMI and self-esteem (p=0.01). A thematic content analysis of replies to the qualitative inquiry of “Knowing what you know now, what would you say to your middle-school self?” indicated affirmation themes of “love the skin you’re in” and admonition themes of “stay active” and “portion control”. Implications of study findings will be explored.


National Youth-At-Risk Conference (NYAR)


Savannah, GA