Seventeen percent of American children are obese. Many public health advocates insist that losing weight is key to improving these kids' physical health—but a new study finds it may not make them feel better about themselves.
Purdue University sociology professor Sarah Mustillo studied the health of 2,000 black and white girls over the course of a decade, charting the girls' weight and self-esteem levels in the formative years between 10 and 20. The harmful stigmatization of obese children is well-documented, and weight loss is not a cure. Mustillo found that among girls who were once considered obese but later lost weight, "the negative [psychological] effects of larger body size can outlive the obesity itself."