Normal-weight adolescents who consider themselves overweight tend to gain more weight and are more likely to become overweight or obese during their passage into young adulthood, according to the results of a study published in the Journal of Obesity
. The study was carried out by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The researchers performed a longitudinal study of 1196 normal-weight adolescents (13 to 19 years old at baseline) with whom follow-up occurred 11 years later. At baseline, 22% of the girls and 9% of the boys in the study considered themselves overweight. At the 11-year follow-up, participants who perceived themselves as overweight in adolescence gained an additional 0.66 units of body mass index and increased their waist size by an additional 3.5 cm on average and after adjustment for relevant confounders. These effects were greater for girls than for boys. For all participants, results were independent of physical activity level.
The researchers suggest that perception of oneself as overweight during adolescence may cause stress-related psychopathology, leading to weight gain, or inspire one to undertake counterproductive efforts to lose weight. They also note that their results underscore the importance of addressing body image in public health approaches to preventing obesity.