Home Blog Youth Depression and Anxiety

Youth Depression and Anxiety

Written on April 18, 2007 at 4:44 pm, by Eric Cressey

On Sunday night, I made an impromptu trip to Wal-Mart to pick up an umbrella for the rainy Marathon. As I was standing in line, a woman a few people ahead of me dropped something as she was loading her items onto the checkout conveyor belt. She was taking care of a small child, and didn’t reach down to pick it up right away.

Just a second or two later, a rather overweight kid from a few feet away started walking toward her; my first assumption was that he was going to help her out and pick it up. Instead, he walked right past the item on the floor, actually bumped her aside a bit, grabbed a bottle of Sunkist® from a cooler next to her, and then walked off.

After throwing a “what the heck?” look at the kid for a split-second, I walked the ten-feet or so over to the women and picked her item up, set it on the conveyor belt, and smiled. She said thank you, and that was that.

The bad news is that kids are getting fatter and fatter, people. The good news is that many of them are so rude that pretty soon, we’ll be more occupied with their crap behavior to be concerned with their “husky” profiles.

Not surprisingly, the two are pretty closely related:

“Regardless of race or sex, increasing weight is associated with emotional and weight-related distress in children.”

Young-Hyman D. et al. Psychological status and weight-related distress in overweight or at-risk-for-overweight children. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006 Dec;14(12):2249-58.

I’m going to go out on a limb and infer from the research and my anecdotal Wal-Mart observation that if a kid is overweight, leading to depression and distress, chances are that he’s going to be more likely to treat people like dirt. I was more sarcastic when I was an overweight kid, and as I’ve gotten older and into better shape, I’ve developed a sense of humor – not more bitter sarcasm.

To that end, anecdotally, I’ve seen athletes who have lost considerable amounts of body fat and change their demeanors in a matter of months. The more self-confidence one has, the less likely he or she is to point out the shortcomings of others. The stronger and leaner one becomes, the more likely he or she is to help out an up-and-coming athlete. Physical health and appearance can literally transform one’s personality.

About three weeks ago, I got a thank you email out of the blue from the father of one of my athletes. This past summer, right as I began working with him, his son (a senior) verbally committed to a solid Division 1 program to play baseball. Since August, this athlete has trained with me 3-4 times a week and given tremendous effort day-in and day-out. He’s leaned out, packed on some muscle mass, gotten a ton stronger, and actually looks like an athlete now. Now, when we lift, it’s like he’s another coach in the room, helping the newer guys out – just like a team captain should. He’s brought in teammates to experience the same great results that he did because he knows that it feeds right back into his own success. Perhaps most impressively, though, is the fact that his father contacted me to let me know just how much of a difference it has made in the way he carries himself. He dresses differently (for the better), walks with his head and chest up, and flat-out treats people better.

I think that the take-home message in all of this is that if we’re looking to improve the attitudes of “Generation Y” – athlete or not – we need to make exercise and nutrition integral parts of that battle.

Eric Cressey, MA, CSCS, is a strength and conditioning specialist at Excel Sport and Fitness Training (www.ExcelStrength.com) in Waltham, MA. Excel’s experienced staff specializes in working with athletes of all ages and ability levels in a fun and motivating environment. The author of The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, Eric has worked with athletes of all levels, from youth sports to the professional and Olympic levels. You can find out more about Eric and sign up for his free newsletter at www.EricCressey.com.

Eric Cressey

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2 Responses to “Youth Depression and Anxiety”

  1. jacksonh Says:

    Hey Eric, I just noticed that the link to the building the efficient athlete DVDs on the right hand side of this page is broken. There’s an extra http:// and a missing :.

    I’m going to finally order my copy of this today, I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile now. Just been too busy with school to watch it.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Obesity makes people rude? I don’t at all doubt the connection between obesity and depression, but I think it’s a pretty big jump to blame teenage rudeness on weight. There are plenty of adolescent males in great physical shape who are rude, arrogant, depressed, unkind, and socially inept, to put it mildly.

    Having been an overweight kid, and having transformed my life a great deal through the pursuit of fitness, I agree with you that building self-confidence helps to eradicate those traits. I am definitely a kinder and happier person than I used to be.

    But having said that, I want to point out that a self-esteem problem related to obesity is not something that just automatically grows along with the fat cells – it’s caused by the way the kid is treated by other people, by insults, taunts, humiliations, harassment, etc.

    I’ve never seen packs of fat kids chasing and physically tormenting normal-weight kids; I’ve never seen fat teachers berating normal-weight kids in front of a class; I’ve never seen fat parents scolding and berating their normal-weight kids for their eating habits. That’s where the depression and anxiety come from.

    Being fat in this society is hellish. All sorts of horrible personality defects are attributed to anyone with a weight problem, and now you’re blaming the fat person for the results of the ill treatment.

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