We see them everywhere—in magazines, on the internet, on television—people with super-thin bodies who are supposed to represent the ideal body form. But despite the increasing pressure to be thin, more and more of us are overweight.
In a study published in July of 2012, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have found that normal weight teens who perceive themselves as fat are more likely to grow up to be fat.
According to the researchers, 59% of girls who felt fat as a teen became overweight in adulthood while 31% of girls who did not consider themselves fat during adolescence were found to be overweight. Normal weight girls were more likely than boys to rate themselves as overweight (22% of girls vs. 9% of the boys).
One reason for weight gain in later years may be due to psychosocial stress, which can be associated with gaining weight. Under this scenario, the psychosocial stress related to having (or not having) an ideal body type, along with the perception of oneself as overweight, can result in weight gain.
Another explanation may be that young people who see themselves as fat often change their eating habits by skipping meals, which can lead to obesity. Additionally, a diet you can’t maintain over time will be counterproductive, as the body tries to maintain the weight you had before you started to diet.
The researchers checked whether exercise made a difference in the relationship between perceived and actual overweight. But they found that exercise could not compensate for the negative effect of feeling overweight at a young age.