Awareness of being overweight promotes further weight gain

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People who recognize they are overweight are more likely to put on even more weight compared to people who are unaware of being overweight. This is the result of a study carried out by British researchers published in the “International Journal of Obesity”.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool evaluated the data of 14,000 adults from three US and British longitudinal studies. The follow-up periods of the studies ranged from seven years, nine to ten years and 22 years. The researchers analysed the adults’ weight, their perception of their own weight, and whether they had gained or lost weight over the years.

The study showed that those who already perceived themselves as being “overweight” were more likely to overeat, for example in response to stress, and thus continue to gain weight. “Realizing you are an overweight individual is in itself likely to be quite stressful and makes making healthy choices in your lifestyle more difficult,” said study author Eric Robinson. However, the tendency towards gaining weight persisted regardless of whether those affected were actually overweight or only believed themselves to be so.

“You would hope that making a person aware they are overweight would result in them being more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight,” said Robinson. But this is not the case. This makes public health intervention work even more difficult, he said. According to Robinson, the problem is due to the stigma that society lays on overweight people.

Conclusions

Perceiving oneself as being ‘overweight’ is counter-intuitively associated with an increased risk of future weight gain among US and UK adults.

E Robinson, J M Hunger; M DalyInternational Journal of Obesity accepted article preview 7 August 2015; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.143