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People who think they're overweight are more likely to gain weight, study says
Positive thinking can be a powerful thing, especially when it comes to the way you see yourself. - photo by Jessica Ivins
Positive thinking can be a powerful thing, especially when it comes to the way you see yourself.

The mere act of perceiving as overweight regardless of whether you really are can actually contribute to you packing on extra pounds, according to a new study.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, cites stress as the main culprit in the weight gain.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool used data from three longitudinal studies to look into the lives of 14,000 adults from the U.S. and the U.K. They specifically identified the subjects perceptions of their own weight once they reached adulthood, whether or not that perception was accurate, and how much their weight changed over time.

While it may seem counterintuitive, those who identified themselves as overweight in the studies were actually more likely to gain weight over time, turning to food and overeating as a coping mechanism for the stress they felt about their weight, researchers said.

Weight gain was more likely to occur even when the person wasnt actually overweight creating a reality out of fiction.

Realizing you are an overweight individual is in itself likely to be quite stressful and makes making healthy choices in your lifestyle more difficult, said researcher Dr. Eric Robinson in a release.

Study authors pointed out that the results of this study could prove challenging when it comes to helping people break the cycle of obesity.

Its a tricky finding for public health intervention work, Robinson said. You would hope that making a person more aware they are overweight would result in them being more likely to adopt a healthier lifestyle and lose some weight.

But thats just not always the case. Since there are any number of negative stigmas attached to weight problems such as inactivity, overeating and depression many people who are aware of their issue, or even perceive it to be so, fall into the trap of those stigmas.

Instead of taking that stress, they ignore it and just use what has worked in the past to make them feel better eating, obesity specialist Dr. Peter LePort told Yahoo Health. But that stressful feeling is back as soon as theyve finished eating, and they havent solved the problem.

Robinson says changing the way society perceives obesity and weight gain can help.

What is important is to tackle stigma in society, he said. People with a heavier body weight have body image challenges. That is not surprising given the way we talk about weight as a society.