Feeling Fat Might Make You Fat: Study

Last weekend, millions of women in America were squeezing into shorts, a slinky dress, or a bathing suit, pinching their jiggling bellies and thighs, and shouting, “I am SO FAT!” Ok, maybe it was just me. I’m no research scientist, but I know that women and girls are more likely than males to think we are fat even when we are slender as gazelles. Ironically, new research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, published in the Journal of Obesity, suggests that the fear of being fat could actually make us fatter later in life. The researchers looked at data from over 1000 teens who weren’t overweight at the time, and followed up when they were between 24 and 30. Half of the participants were still at a normal weight. But among those who were overweight, the researchers found a clear difference: 60% to 78% of girls who thought they were fat as teens became overweight later on. In contrast, only one-third of the girls who did not consider themselves fat during adolescence were found in the follow-up study to be overweight. In other words, normal-weight teens who rated themselves “fat” were more likely to become that way, as measured by BMI and waist circumference. The researchers, not very originally, cite “psychosocial stress” and “weight norms” for the phenomenon. Fair enough. I’m less interested in the cause than the effect, so I have a suggestion: Every time we think we are “fat,” why not shout “I am SO THIN” and see what happens? Who knows…we may be able to change our weight fate with words alone!