A new study has found that people who think they’re fat, even when they’re not, face a self-fulfilling prophecy: They end up fat later on. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology asked over 1,000 normal-weight teenagers how they viewed their bodies, then checked back with them 11 years later. 78 percent of study subjects who’d felt overweight as teens ended up overweight as adults.

Why does this happen? The researchers theorize that unrealistic ideas about how much we should weigh can negatively impact our eating habits. For instance, someone who thinks they’re fat may skip breakfast, thus hampering their fat-burning metabolism and causing them to binge later, leading ultimately to weight gain down the road. In other words, constant vigilance in the form of “don’t eat that—you’re fat!” will ultimately backfire and cause you to put on the pounds.

The upshot of this is, it would benefit all of us to get a realistic grasp on whether we’re overweight or not. If you’re of average weight, stop beating yourself up about it, since it could do more harm than good.

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