Results from a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool showed that people who acknowledge they are obese or overweight are more likely to put on weight in comparison to those who are unaware of their situation.
The team of researchers examined data for 14,000 people from the UK and the US. Data was retrieved from three different studies: the UK National Child Development Study, the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, and Midlife in the US.
Data was analyzed by looking at a time point after children had reached adulthood to understand their perception of their weight – whether this perception was or was not accurate — and their subsequent weight gain over time.
While the UK study followed-up on the participants from age 23 until age 45, the other two studies only followed-up participants from seven and nine to 10 years.
The results showed that participants who recognized themselves as being “overweight” were more likely to assume they overeat as an emotional response to stress. The overeating behavior was found to predict weight gain.
Dr. Eric Robinson from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, said: “Realising you are an overweight individual is in itself likely to be quite stressful and make making healthy choices in your lifestyle more difficult. It is a tricky finding for public health intervention work.
“You would hope that making a person aware they are overweight would result in them being more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight.”
He added: “What is important is to tackle stigma in society. People with a heavier body weight have body image challenges. That is not surprising given the way we talk about weight as a society.”
“But the way we talk about body weight and the way we portray overweight and obesity in society is something we can think about and reconsider. There are ways of encouraging people to make healthy changes to their lifestyle that don’t portray adiposity as a terrible thing.”