A recent study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology adds to an existing pile of evidence that if you are normal weight but see yourself as overweight, you are much more likely to become overweight. So, the next time you're in a fitting room at the mall and a friend does the ol' "I'm so fat" thing, you might want to let her know that if she keeps saying that, it might in fact turn out to be true.
Researchers surveyed normal-weight teenagers to see if they felt overweight or not, and then followed up with them 10 years later as young adults. Of the teenage girls who had seen themselves as fat, 59 percent did in fact become overweight, as measured by BMI. But using waist circumference instead of BMI as the measure, 78 percent had become overweight as young adults. And, we can probably guess that 100 percent of subjects who had become overweight were pretty upset about that.
In contrast, 31 percent of the girls who did not consider themselves fat during adolescence were found in the follow-up study to be overweight, as measured using BMI. That number was 55 percent as measured by waist circumference.
There are a few explanations for why perceiving yourself as fat can actually make you fat. The authors explained that feeling overweight can cause psychosocial stress, which can lead to weight gain around the waist. Thinking you’re fat can also lead to obesity-causing habits like skipping breakfast and yo-yo dieting. We’re dubbing this the “Self-Fulfilling Fat Prophecy,” and it begs the question: could this principle apply to other beauty woes too? Like, could thinking you’re getting wrinkly lead to excessive wrinkles?
And, as if you didn’t know this already, females are much likelier than males to see themselves as fat. While all of the teens surveyed were normal weight, 22 percent of the girls saw themselves as fat while only nine percent of boys did—likely due to the fact that girls experience significantly more social stress in conjunction with body image.
Alas, the struggle for perfection, as a messed up society defines it, often ends up backfiring on us. Confidence is always the hottest look.
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What do you think? Does thinking you're fat lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy?
Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (2012). Feeling Fat May Make You Fat, Study Suggests. Science Daily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808121816.htm
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