Teens Who Perceive Themselves As Overweight Tend To Gain Weight Later In Life

Adolescence is a minefield of body image issues, with a disturbingly high number of girls developing eating disorders each year in the United States. Even those who don't end up with clinically unhealthy eating habits can have distorted perceptions of their bodies, and a study shows that they're not off the hook either: teens who consider themselves overweight tend to gain weight later in life. Why can't there ever be a self-fulfilling prophecy that ends well?Study authors Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terracciano analyzed body image data from over 6500 16 year-olds, following up 12 years later when they were 28. The study specifically focused on teens who misperceived themselves as overweight

— as in, on a scale of one to five, they reported that they thought of themselves as overweight, but their height and weight indicated that they had a healthy body mass index (BMI). The association between weight misperception and weight gained later in life was startlingly high: healthy teens who considered themselves overweight were 40 percent more likely to become obese as adults. Interestingly, the association was especially high for boys, who had an 89 percent increased risk for weight gain later in life.

<img alt="" src="http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mbynp91x4t1rsw1yf.gif" class="article-body-image"/>These results are most likely due to a number of factors, according to Sutin and Terracciano. Teens with skewed body perceptions are more likely to use unhealthy mechanisms for weight loss, such as vomiting or diet pills, and when you consider that even just viewing ads for diet pills is a risk for weight gain, it's easy to see how those habits could lead to obesity as an adult. Additionally, the "psychological factors" behind their body image could also affect their self-control. Oh, and the stigma connected to obesity is actually associated with weight gain. The authors elaborated on the results to Science Daily, saying "Adolescents who misperceive themselves as being overweight may not take the steps necessary to maintain a healthy weight, because as they gain weight, they physically become what they have long perceived themselves to be."

As for why boys are more affected by this, it all goes back to how closely women's bodies are scrutinized. It's no secret that girls are objectified from the minute they exit the womb, and studies have shown that the constant attention on their bodies causes them to be hyper-aware of their appearances. This means girls are "more attentive to their weight," according to Sutin and Terracciano, and doctors "may also notice weight gain sooner... or may be more likely to address any weight gain with girls than with boys." This is probably the first time in history that the obsession with women's appearances has been even the slightest bit beneficial, provided said weight gain is problematic and in need of addressing.The news isn't all terrible, though. A recent study found that when teens who are actually obese try to lose weight, they tend to do so for intrinsic reasons rather than pressure from the outside world. With the increasing number of programs aimed at teens with body image issues, hopefully we'll be able to help those with skewed perceptions before it becomes ingrained in adulthood. Image: ineedthisforreactions/Tumblr