Feeling Fat Makes You Fat.

This morning, I came across an absolutely fascinating study by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. According to the study, normal weight teenagers who perceive themselves as fat are more likely to become overweight adults.

Back in the mid 1990s, researchers surveyed nearly 1200 teenage boys and girls with normal bodyweights. Roughly ten years later, the researchers followed up with the now-adult participants. While half of the participants still had normal bodyweights, the researchers found some interesting insights about the now-overweight individuals:

  • 59% of the girls and 65% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 78% of the girls and 55% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In contrast:

  • 31% of the girls and 29% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
  • 55% of the girls and 48% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

In other words, far more of the normal weight teens who felt fat (even though they weren’t) actually became overweight as adults. In fact, their BMI averaged .88 higher and their waistlines were 3.46 cm larger. But why?

Researchers speculate that teens who felt fat were more stressed than their counterparts. Since stress is associated with weight gain, this could offer one an explanation. Moreover, these teens may have tried to lose their perceived fat by skipping meals and starvation – a strategy that ultimately results in weight gain.

Personally, I think the answer could be a bit deeper. If we have a good, healthy relationship with our body, then we’re more likely to do things that honor it – like eat a healthy diet and engage in exercise. If, on the other hand, you don’t like your body and use negative words against it – like calling it fat – then that relationship can deteriorate and lead to unhealthy habits.

And let’s not forget the power of visualization. By visualizing something, you can help bring it into reality. If you see yourself winning the gold medal or lifting a certain amount of weight or just eating your vegetables, you can breath life into your thoughts. Perhaps, by seeing themselves as fat, these individuals subconsciously cultivated habits that made their belief an reality.

Obviously, it will take subsequent research and data to draw stronger conclusions – but, in the meantime, this study is great food for thought.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the results of this study?

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Comments

  1. Losing the “i’m fat” mentality after losing 50 pounds and returning to the gym is a real struggle. and boy howdy how does it affect the rest of your life outside the gym and self-image. I spent SO many years – literally fat and hating how I looked – I’ve been 50 pounds lighter and back to the gym now for six years? and I still do the “omg honey you look like a thanksgiving Macy’s float today” thing in the mirror. when a day later I’ll see abs in the same mirror. it’s tough stuff – these mental tapes we record for ourselves. and sometimes hard, if not impossible, to undo.

  2. Eric Anderson says:

    I think its important to remember that there are different body types, and attitudes and people can be overweight and remain healthy. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise are always good, no matter if you are fat or not. It all boils down to what makes you feel confident and comfortable with your body.

  3. Im in normal weight (some would say im too skinny) but sometimes i say out loud that i am fat when i exercise and want to build a six pack and nice chest! i guess i need to appreciate my body and build a great relationship with myself and apply the power of visualization.

    Thanks for the info…
    v/r
    IVAN

  4. Well guys, remember one thing the brain is so powerful that in fact almost everything we think positive or negative attracts positive or negative vibes. I’m skinny but sometimes I look at the mirror just before i going to a party and repeat to myself that I’m gonna have the time of my life and works many people start talking from me from nothing and everything, but i the other hand when I haven’t sleep well just before that and go there in a bad mood none talks to me, hahahhaa Is funny but how you feel inside reflects so much how you look outside even if outside is visually correct sometimes.

    Roberto.

  5. Something about this posting really confuses me. You list the percentages of normal weight teens who perceived themselves as fat and the percentage who were overweight according to BMI, then those overweight based on the circumference of their waist. Then, “In contrast”, you list more percentages of girls and boys who were normal weight teens who’ve grown to be overweight based first on BMI and then based on circumference. There’s no contrast here.

    What is missing in this?

  6. The stats don’t make sense. The two different blocks separate the teenagers into the same groups, and give conflicting statistics. One says that feeling fat makes you fat, and the other says that feeling fat maintains a health body weight…

  7. They are using BMI to determine whether they are actually fat? That’s not a very good way to conclude whether they think they are fat.

    After all, just because someone perceives they are fat doesn’t make it so. Take, for instance, someone who lifts weights. Their BMI could say they are fat, when they really aren’t — yet they simply have a poor body image and think they’re fat.

  8. “59% of the girls and 65% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
    78% of the girls and 55% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.

    In contrast:

    31% of the girls and 29% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to their body mass index (BMI).
    55% of the girls and 48% of the boys who perceived themselves to be fat as teenagers grew up to be overweight according to the circumference of their waist.”

    I fear there was a lapse in logic here…Please explain Davey

  9. Guys, I’m pretty sure it was a typo. I think the second set of statistics was supposed to be teenagers who did not view themselves as fat.