With teen obesity at its highest it has ever been, and the continuous pressure of attaining super model thin bodies, research suggest teens who identify themselves as being fat when they are not can lead to obesity later in life.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), observed the relationship between perceived weights and actual weights among teenagers and young adults.
Koenraad Cuypers, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, believes the perception of being fat stems from psychosocial stress, which is associated with gaining weight around the waist. Psychosocial stress can be an effect of having either an extreme body type or not having an ideal body type.
"Another explanation may be that young people who see themselves as fat often change their eating habits by skipping meals, for example. Research has shown that dropping breakfast can lead to obesity," Cuypers said. The first stage of the study conducted between the years 1995-1997, comprised of 1,196 normal weight male and female teens. Researchers followed up with each individual between the years of 2006-2008 where participants were between the ages of 24 and 30.
Results demonstrated 22 percent of normal weight girls are more likely to classify themselves as overweight compared to nine percent of boys. Researchers believe the gender difference lies in the media advertisement that focuses primarily on targeting females rather than males.
"Girls thus experience more psychosocial stress to achieve the ideal body," Cuypers said. "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. Cuypers recommends that society and school systems address perceived obesity and development obesity in hoped to reverse the tread and reduce societal stress associated with obesity.
"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." he said.