Self-perception of your weight goes a long way, especially if you're a teenager! But the group most affected is not the one you think!
Can You Think Yourself Fat?
Florida State University scientists looked at the data of more than 6,500 teens, who were first examined at the age of 16 and followed until the age of 28.
Could those of normal body weight, but who believed they were fat, think themselves fat?
Yes, they could.
"I Know I'm Fat!"
At the study's start, the teens had to rate their weight from 1 ("very underweight") to 5 ("overweight").
But the biggest surprise was that it wasn't girls who are most susceptible to this risk. It was boys who misperceived their weight. Compared to peers who had a realistic body weight perception, their risk of adult obesity was a whopping 89% higher.
Why Is It So?
The study's authors aren't sure what causes this, but propose two possible mechanisms:
- Teens believing themselves to be overweight are more likely to use diet pills or vomiting as a form of weight control and both are associated with long-term weight gain
- It could also be a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, where the body adjusts reality to what the mind perceives it to be.
As for why the effect is stronger in boys, one of the study's authors, Angela Sutin, has this to say:
It may be that girls are more attentive to their weight and may intervene earlier when they experience any weight gain. As such, the self-fulfilling prophecy may be stronger for boys than for girls. Physicians and other health care providers may also notice weight gain sooner for girls than for boys, or may be more likely to address any weight gain with girls than with boys.
Can You Think Yourself Thin?
All this invites an intriguing question: if you can think yourself fat, could you also think yourself thin?
Picture courtesy of Kyle May.