Original Article | Published:

Behavior and Psychology

Perceived weight status and risk of weight gain across life in US and UK adults

International Journal of Obesity volume 39, pages 17211726 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Background:

Correctly identifying oneself as being overweight is presumed to be a prerequisite to successful weight management. The present research examined the effect that perceiving oneself as being ‘overweight’ has on risk of future weight gain in US and UK adults.

Methods:

Data from three longitudinal studies; US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) 2001/2002–2008/2009, UK National Child Development Study (NCDS) 1981–2002/2004, and Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) 1995/1996–2004/2005, were used to examine the impact of perceiving oneself as being overweight on weight gain across adulthood in over 14 000 US and UK adults.

Results:

Participants who perceived their weight status as being overweight were at an increased risk of subsequent weight gain. This effect was observed irrespective of weight status at baseline and whether weight status perceptions were accurate or inaccurate. In the MIDUS sample, perceiving oneself as being overweight was associated with overeating in response to stress and this mediated the relationship between perceived overweight and weight gain.

Conclusions:

Perceiving oneself as being ‘overweight’ is counter-intuitively associated with an increased risk of future weight gain among US and UK adults.

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Acknowledgements

This research received no external funding. ER was partly supported by the Wellcome Trust.

Author contributions

All authors were responsible for the study design. M Daly and JM Hunger were responsible for the analysis of the studies reported. All authors drafted and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

    • E Robinson
  2. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

    • J M Hunger
  3. Behavioural Science Centre, Stirling Management School, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK

    • M Daly
  4. UCD Geary Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

    • M Daly

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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to E Robinson.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2015.143

Supplementary Information accompanies this paper on International Journal of Obesity website (http://www.nature.com/ijo)

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