Thinking you're born to be a certain weight can be detrimental to your well-being, study says.

By Liz Steelman
Updated September 08, 2015
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Do you think your slender or robust frame is just another trait passed down from your mother's side? Well, according to a new study from Texas Tech University, believing you're born to be either curvy or slim can negatively affect your overall health as you age.

For the study, published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, researchers analyzed almost 9,000 responses from the 2007 and 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants, between the ages of 18 and 79, were interviewed about their beliefs regarding weight and their physical activity, as well as their healthful and unhealthful eating habits. They were also clinically examined for objective health measures, such as fasting blood glucose level, BMI, and reported sickness or injury.

The findings showed that if a participant believed weight was genetically determined—and therefore uncontrollable—he or she was less likely to eat healthy meals, less apt to exercise, and more likely to consume unhealthy meals, such as pre-prepared frozen meals and take-out, as they aged. While those who thought weight was controllable did still eat as many unhealthy and healthy meals as the other group, they exercised more often and had higher overall levels of health.

"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," study authors Mike C. Parent, Ph.D., and Jessica L. Alquist, Ph.D., wrote in the study, according to a statement.

The researchers said they hope this information helps to communicate the importance and effectiveness of promoting positive lifestyle changes, divorced from weight-loss expectations. "By fighting the perception that weight is unchangeable, health care providers may be able to increase healthful behaviors among their patients," the authors wrote.

Need some tips on how to maintain a healthy diet? We’ve compiled the 7 principles of healthy eating, which don't include deprivation, blandness, or rigidity. Want some support to overhaul your lifestyle? Here are 19 small changes to make to improve your health, all from fellow Real Simple readers.