Showing your body some love may help ward off weight gain. Teens who perceived themselves as overweight (even though they weren’t) were at a greater risk of becoming obese as adults, as compared to those who had a more realistic body image, according to a new study in Psychological Science. Researchers say the findings likely hold true for adults, too.
The specifics: Those who inaccurately thought they were overweight at age 16 were 40 percent more likely to be obese by age 28, researchers found. “Women who misperceive themselves as overweight tend to engage in extreme dieting behaviors that have been shown to lead to obesity,” says study author Angelina Sutin, PhD, a psychologist at Florida State University College of Medicine. For example, they may be more likely to starve themselves or take diet pills or laxatives. Research also shows that people who feel anxious or depressed about their weight may be more prone to emotional and binge eating, which can lead to weight gain, too.
That’s right: Obtaining a more realistic picture of your weight can do more than boost your mental health—it can help keep you slim. We know, we know: easier said than done. Start with these three simple ways to show your body a little more love:
Surround yourself with positivity. Unfollow every thigh-gap-grammer in your feed immediately, and start surrounding yourself with more positive images, like those from @theprettygirlrevolution. The account is chock-full of beauty, confidence, and self-worth inspiration to help keep you on track.
Hit the gym. “Exercising and eating a well-balanced diet goes a long way in helping you feel good about yourself,” Sutin says. Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can boost your self-image because you know you’re making smart decisions.
Say your name. Talking to yourself in the mirror again? It’s totally normal! Just try replacing “I” with your own name. In a study, people who used “I” when talking to themselves were more likely to express self-doubt and harsh sentiments. But those who used their own names were more likely to give themselves support and advice, University of Michigan researchers found. The reason: Saying your name may give you some mental distance, so you’re more inclined to address yourself as you would a friend than when using “!” (and you’re probably more forgiving of friends’ flaws than you are of your own).