Just Thinking You’re Fat Could Make You Gain Weight

by | August 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Health

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By Jessica Chou, TheDailyMeal.com Editor

A new study found that teens who thought they were fat tended to gain weight later on.

If there was ever a reason to get rid of all those advertisements filled with thin models, here is one: New research published in the Journal of Obesity found that average-weight teens who perceived themselves as fat tended to become overweight as adults.

According to a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, “Perceiving themselves as fat even though they are not may actually cause normal-weight children to become overweight as adults.”

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Of the girls who felt they were fat or overweight, 59 percent became overweight adults 11 years later, the study found. Only 31 percent of girls who were happy with their weight became overweight as adults.

In fact, normal-weight teenagers who rated themselves as fat had a BMI that was 0.88 higher on average than those who were happy with their weight.

The reasoning? Unrealistic body-sizes, perpetuated by the media, may cause weight-related anxiety. Past studies have found that higher levels of anxiety and psychological stress are linked to a larger waist size.

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Furthermore, study authors say that following a diet may be counterproductive, since “young people who see themselves as fat often change their eating habits by skipping meals, for example. Research has shown that dropping breakfast can lead to obesity,” researcher Koenraad Cuypers said.

It’s not always a self-fulfilling prophecy, however. Past research has found that obese adult women who rated themselves as obese tended to lose weight, while normal weight women and men who felt they needed to lose weight actually gained weight. So perhaps it’s more necessary to create realistic body expectations.

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“The weight norms for society must be changed so that young people have a more realistic view of what is normal,” Cuypers said. “In school you should talk to kids about what are normal body shapes, and show that all bodies are beautiful as they are. And, last but not least: The media must cease to emphasize the super model body as the perfect ideal, because it is not.” Cue Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.”

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.