Here’s a newsflash. Teens who think they are fat, even though they are not, have a greater chance to become fat adults than teens who do not think they are fat.
Now, why would that be? Hmmmmm, could it be ….. I don’t know …. dieting?
I know the reasons for being fat are diverse and complex, but a major culprit is a history of dieting. You diet, you lose weight, you gain the weight plus some. Repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and – well, you get it.
If a teenager thinks he or she is fat, what do you think their response is going to be? Go on a diet!
The study even points out that level of physical activity was not found to moderate this association, because exercise cannot compensate for how dieting screws up your metabolism.
And why should “feeling” fat cause weight gain?
It’s not feeling fat that causes the weight gain. It’s the feeling that being fat is bad or shameful. It’s feeling unacceptable. It’s feeling all the things that society tells you that fat people should feel about themselves.
Kudos to Koenraad Cuypers, the lead researcher, who says:
“Society needs to move away from a focus on weight, and instead needs to emphasize healthy eating habits, such as eating regular and varied meals and eating breakfast. Good sleep habits are also an advantage. And by reducing the amount that teens are transported to and from school and recreational activities, teens might also be able to avoid getting a ‘commuter belly’,” Cuypers adds.
Well, he was doing pretty well right up to “commuter belly” – for fuck’s sake, dude, how can you say that, and then go on to say:
“The weight norms for society must be changed so that young people have a more realistic view of what is normal. In school you should talk to kids about what are normal body shapes, and show that all bodies are beautiful as they are. And, last but not least: The media must cease to emphasize the super model body as the perfect ideal, because it is not.”
So mostly Dr. Cuyper has the right idea, he just needs to be a bit more aware of how statements like “commuter belly” can affect self-esteem, particularly with sensitive teens.