Childhood Trauma Influences Teenage Obesity

I was a pale, skinny child. Pictures of me at five and six show a thin, fair tow-headed kid. But several years later the pictures changed.

I began putting on weight shortly after our next-door neighbor abused me. I don’t remember how old I was at the time. I do remember I didn’t tell anyone because of the shame I felt and because I felt frozen and didn’t have words to describe what had happened to me.

I also remember coming home from school in the weeks after my abuse and mindlessly eating until my mom got home from work. I didn’t link my eating to my trauma. But buttered saltines became my favorite snack because saltines were fairly abundant in our household. Within a year, I’d officially blossomed to “chubbie” sizes and began catching comments from family members about my growing size.

January is Healthy Weight Awareness Month. A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics’ January issue reports that children who’ve suffered adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese. The higher the number of ACE experiences, the more likely they are to develop excessive weight by middle or high school.

Participants were asked questions about six out of ten kinds of adverse experiences: if they had experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse or psychological abuse, and if substance abuse, addiction, domestic violence, or parental incarceration were present in their family.

The greater the number of ACEs, the higher the risk of obesity.

Obesity is considered at epidemic proportions in America’s children and adults. This puts them at risk for developing health problems that include depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and other conditions. Childhood trauma has also been linked to increased risk of suicide attempts and a higher likelihood of substance abuse, and toxic stress that damages the structure of developing brains.

Preventing and identifying ACEs can play a major role in a child’s health for a lifetime. So what can you do?

  • Be sure your child’s physician understands the vital role of trauma in physical and mental health.
  • Work to find your child help for trauma and seek education on how you can best help them.
  • Become involved in trauma-informed efforts in your community or initiate them.

Let us know how we can help. offers resources, lunch-and learn sessions, seminars, and information and support through our Facebook community. We would also love to hear from you here.

We’d also encourage you to purchase our Ebook on Amazon, PTSD Realities: What You Should Know and Why You Should Care. This informational book provides foundational information on trauma and PTSD. If you know or love someone who battles PTSD, you would benefit from this book.

Have you or someone you love struggled with trauma-related obesity? Have you found a successful way to deal with your struggle with food? We’d love to hear from you.

Shelly and Wanda

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