The number of overweight kids and teens is at an all-time high for the US, approaching an estimated 12.7 million. While it may seem lonely when you’re in the situation, it’s a much more common struggle than it may feel.

For many years, being overweight was assumed to solely be due to an unhealthy diet, and while many convenience foods (like the fries available every day in the school cafeteria) and beverages do contribute to weight gain, they aren’t the only factors that play a role.

Lifestyle, Genetics And Underlying Illness

Though dietary habits do have a significant effect on weight and overall health, there are other specific lifestyle habits that play a role in weight gain and obesity. Specifically, living a sedentary life (not getting enough physical activity on a consistent basis) is one of the other major lifestyle-based contributors to an unhealthy weight.

This is an increasing problem due to large amounts of time spent on social media, playing video games, watching Netflix, and indulging in other sources of screen time. This type of lifestyle, combined with sedentary hours at school, results in little to no exercise.

Along with lifestyle, genetics and underlying health issues can also result in being overweight. Genetic factors are thought to be anywhere from 40 to 70 percent responsible for a person’s body type, including weight. Similarly, other health issues (many of which are genetic themselves) can cause weight gain and lead to obesity.

Emotional Health, Life Events And Social Interactions

It’s understandable to think obesity is only connected to physical factors; after all, weight is a physical attribute. The truth, however, is that there are a number of psychological triggers and contributors to obesity as well.

Depression, anxiety, and other common mental health difficulties can drastically affect an individual’s ability to make healthy decisions like eating well or getting enough physical exercise. These psychological issues can be a result of trauma, abuse or chemical imbalances, but they can also stem from major life events. A death in the family, a new child, divorce and other big changes can be difficult and manifest in emotional health.

Challenging social interactions among classmates and family members can also be a psychological trigger that impacts diet, exercise and overall lifestyle habits that can hinder maintaining a healthy body and weight.

Management And Treatment

Due to the complex nature of the mind and body, especially when they’re still growing and developing, managing and treating obesity should be done very carefully, with the help of both a primary care physician and a psychologist or therapist if it is beneficial (in nearly all circumstances, it is, indeed, helpful to address emotional/mental health).

With guidance from medical professionals, you can then implement the changes necessary to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This could include a specialized weight management program, slow dietary changes that are easy to make, support groups, increased physical activity, and medical treatment for any other physical or mental health illnesses.

Maintaining a healthy weight in today’s society – one in which lifestyle is so drastically different from a few decades ago – can be challenging. With that said, it’s more than doable, with the right guidance and support.

Remember: weight is one of many health traits, all of which are important. When you eat right, get enough exercise, and work towards a productive lifestyle, a healthy body will come along as well.

Written by Jackie Edwards