Obese people live in altered reality where they can't judge distances accurately, scientists say
Published 15/02/2016 | 12:42
Researchers find the world appears more daunting to fatter people creating a vicious cycle of weight gain
Obese people are trapped in an altered reality where distances appear longer, making them less inclined to exercise, scientists have found.
Astonishing new research suggests the world actually appears more daunting to fatter people, in the same way that a hill might seem higher if you were wearing a heavy backpack.
Researchers say that it creates a vicious cycle were those who need to lose weight find it harder to get started.
They even suggest that obese people should wear telescopic glasses to offset the effect.
In a study presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, scientists recruited hundreds of people who shopped at Walmart and asked them to judge the distance of a cone placed on a road 25 metres away.
They found that people who were 9 stone judged the cone to be 15 metres away while those who were 23 stone thought it was 30 metres.
Dr Jessica Witt, associate professor of cognitive psychology at Colorado State University said: “We think that these perceptual biases can create a vicious cycle for people with obesity where they see the world as impossible to navigate.
“They will be less likely to choose to be active – and that’s going to continue in this unhealthy lifestyle.
“It is conscious perception of the world. But it’s not based on conscious perception of the body or feelings of laziness.
“It cannot be controlled – it is out of your hands. You can’t will yourself to see that target as closer or that hill as less steep.”
“If you don’t want to see distances as twice as far you can loss 200lbs. There are things you can do, but you can’t will yourself to see it differently.”
One in four adults in England is obese and these figures are set to climb to 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women, by 2050. Three in every 10 children aged between two and 15 are currently overweight or obese.
Obesity and diabetes already costs the UK over £5billion every year which is likely to rise to £50 billion in the next 36 years.
Dr Witt has previously shown how baseball players who are hitting well see the ball as bigger.
She said assumptions that we all perceive the world the same are “wrong”.
“If you find yourself out hiking with a heavy backpack, hills are going to look steeper, distances are going to look farther, gaps across a river are going to look longer,” she added.
“It’s this idea that if you are going to have to make more effort to ascend that hill because you are carrying this heavy backpack, the hill is going to look different. You are not seeing that hill as it is.“You are seeing the world in your ability to act. Your ability is declined because you are having to carry this rucksack.
Give people an easier tasks to start with. Training on an easier target is a good idea.”