Here's more proof that worrying about your weight as a teen might actually do more harm once you reach adulthood. Teenage girls who think they're too fat are much more likely than their
peers with undistorted body images to become overweight when they get
older, a new study published in the Journal of Obesity reports.
The study, conducted by Norwegian researchers, collected data on 1,200 individuals when they were teens, and then again 11 years later as adults. Teen participants were asked to comment on how they perceived themselves on a scale of thin to "chubby" or "very fat."
A decade later, the researchers tracked down the teens and found that 60% of the normal sized girls in the study who thought they were fat had actually gone on to become overweight twentysomethings. Only 31% of non-overweight girls who didn't think they were fat ended up with elevated BMI as adults. The males in the study fared a slightly better: 63% of normal sized boys who wrongly perceived themselves to be "very fat" went on to become overweight young adults.
The problem with this is that reacting to imaginary fat at such an early
age can lead to a whole host of negative long term lifestyle and health
effects in the long run. Researchers noted that the weight gain might have something to do with the girls screwing with their metabolism by attempting to skip meals, deprive themselves of food, and eat unbalanced diets.
It's not clear that negative teenage self-talk causes adult weight gain or if it's just positively correlated, but it certainly shows that having crappy self esteem when you're a kid is now something that can produce long-term health effects.