News Release

Thinking people are born fat or born thin is bad for your health

Peer-Reviewed Publication


Figure 1. Structural Equation Model

image: In this figure, Vig. rec. = vigorous recreational activity; Mod. rec. = moderate recreational activity; Walk/bike = walking or biking for at least 10 minutes each day; Meals out = meals eaten away from home; R2E meals = ready-to-eat meals; Frozen = frozen meals/pizza; Nut. Facts. = use of nutritional panels on food; Fruit = availability of fruit at home; DG veg. = availability of dark green vegetables at home; Days = subjective health (days health was not good) and Gen. health = subjective health (general rating of health). Table 2 shows Unstandardized, Standardized, and Significance. view more 

Credit: Mike C. Parent, PhD and Jessica L. Alquist, PhD

Los Angeles, CA (September 08, 2015) Though the belief that DNA determines weight is highly debated, it appears to be shaping people's lives. A new study finds that those who believe that weight is outside of their control have less healthy BMIs, make poorer food choices, and report lower levels of personal wellbeing than those who don't. This study was published today in Health Education and Behavior, a Society for Public Health Education journal published by SAGE.

"If an individual believes weight to be outside of the influence of diet and exercise, she or he may engage in more behaviors that are rewarding in the short term, such as eating unhealthful foods and avoiding exercise, rather than healthful behaviors with more long-term benefits for weight management," wrote study authors Dr. Mike C. Parent and Dr. Jessica L. Alquist. "By fighting the perception that weight is unchangeable, health care providers may be able to increase healthful behaviors among their patients."

Analyzing data from both medical and self-reported health measurements of 4,166 men and 4,655 women, the study authors found the following:

  • As people get older, the belief that weight is unchangeable and determined by DNA is associated with less healthy eating behavior. For example, as people age, they are less likely to examine food nutrition labels and to make fruits and vegetables available at home.

  • As people get older, the belief that weight is unchangeable is associated with less exercise.

  • As people get older, the belief that weight is unchangeable is associated with eating more frozen meals (e.g., pizza), restaurant meals and 'ready-to-eat foods' (e.g., deli foods).

"Although previous research has found gender differences in weight as a motivation for exercise and healthful eating, we did not find evidence that gender affected the relationship between health beliefs and physical activity or healthful eating," wrote the study authors. "However, we found evidence that the relationship between belief in weight changeability and exercise, healthful eating, and unhealthful eating differs by age."


Find out more by reading the full article, "Born Fat: The Relations Between Weight Changeability Beliefs and Health Behaviors and Physical Health." For an embargoed copy of the full text, please email

SAGE Founded 50 years ago by Sara Miller McCune to support the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global community, SAGE publishes more than 850 journals and over 800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas. A growing selection of library products includes archives, data and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable trust that secures the company's continued independence. Principal offices are located in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC.

About Society for Public Health Education

The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) is a non-profit professional organization founded in 1950 to provide global leadership to the profession of health education and health promotion and to promote the health of society. SOPHE's 4,000 international and chapter members work in various public and private organizations to advance health education theory and research, develop disease prevention and health promotion programs, and promote public policies conducive to health. For more information, see

Health Education & Behavior is an official publication of Society for Public Health Education.

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