Most of us have heard of a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, but how many of us actually recognise we may be living in a cycle of fulfilling our own prophecies?
The phrase ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ was coined by the American sociologist Robert K merton in 1948, and describes how a false belief can come true. For example a person labelled naughty who is subjected repeatedly to this expectation, may well live up to that label and consistently display naughty behaviour.
My opinion is that this is more of a problem than we think in all areas, but my focus is specifically on overweight and obesity. I strongly believe in the adage that what we think about we bring about, therefore I did not need much convincing on this particular theory. A recent paper in Psychological Science found that self perception can turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy for young adolescents. Normal weight teenagers who perceived themselves to be overweight had a 40% increased risk of becoming obese before the age of 30, than those who did not have this misperception. When I think about this I think about myself, my daughters, the students I teach and know that as a society we are without a doubt fearfully thinking ourselves fat.
It is is easy to see how this misperception begins and snowballs in our society today. There is pressure for teens and for that matter all ages to be slim, starting with magazines and media for the young, and the constant health warnings issued about being a healthy weight for all ages. Although, it is also true that many young girls predisposed to anxiety/mental health challenges find themselves in a vicious cycle of some type of eating disorder. The added pressures of feeling the need to be perfect, to do well in school, to perform well at pretty much everything they have a go at, exacerbate the need for comfort and the numbing of shameful feelings.
I have suffered with a binge eating disorder for many years and it was a relief to find that I was not alone. Binge eating disorder was officially recognised within the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders in 2013, and is different to the term compulsive eating. If this is something that may be familiar to you, find further information in the references (or feel free to get in touch).
However a self-fulfilling prophecy may not need to be tied to any disorder, how many times have you set yourself up to fall into an expected outcome and proven yourself to be right? Here is a few examples of statements you or someone you know may say, and how to help turn your thoughts around.
1. “I am too tired or too busy to eat healthy” change to “I know how to be organised and I will prepare healthy foods in advance”
2. “I cant cook” change to “I can make healthy easy recipes”
3. “I haven’t enough time to eat healthy” change to “I deserve to fuel my body with healthy food and so it is a priority”
Have a think about what you may be telling yourself and write it down, then have a go at changing the statement. Repeat your new statements daily to help change your mindset.
Love and health,