Looking in the mirror more often causes overweight people to engage in healthy activities

HOUSTON, Texas — Gazing into your mirror may sound pretty vain, a new study reveals that for overweight and obese individuals, a hard look at themselves in the mirror can lead to weight loss. Researchers at Texas Woman’s University say looking in the mirror encourages overweight people to engage in more healthy activities.

Their study suggests that the sinking feeling of seeing love handles and other unflattering bulges motivates people to change their eating and exercising habits. Study authors add looking at your reflection actually reduces anxiety and body dissatisfaction, while improving self-awareness.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, come from a review of five studies involving 1,687 participants.

“Self-assessment and reflection are key to overall wellbeing,” says lead author Dr. Harriet Omondi in a media release. “Our review hopes to introduce the mirror as a healthcare tool to combat obesity.”

Do mirrors spoil the taste of junk food?

The team also found the presence of a mirror made unhealthy food taste less appetizing. Individuals were more likely to opt for dried fruit rather than brownies and fruit salad instead of chocolate cake.

An analysis found participants ate less and spent more time chewing each mouthful, adjusting their hair and clothes in between. When researchers placed mirrors in a university cafeteria, students were more likely to opt for healthy dressings than fattier sauces.

Dr. Omondi, a family nurse practitioner, concludes that seeing mirror reflections decrease food consumption and boost self-esteem.

“Mirror exposure can induce self awareness which implores individuals to act in harmony with broader societal standards,” the study authors tells SWNS in a statement. “Eating unhealthy food in front of a mirror is not in line with health standards and thus induces an uncomfortable feeling which decreases the taste of food – consequently decreasing consumption.”

Mental health therapy and mirrors can lead to weight loss

Researchers say most people avoid introspection while taking part in unhealthy behavior. Overeating can often serve as a way to escape and not deal with personal problem or health concerns. Convincing obese individuals to become self-conscious can be a tall order. Mirrors in therapeutic settings may be the answer.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy has been the mainstay treatment for obesity,” Dr. Omondi tells SWNS. “It has been shown to reduce binge eating episodes and reduce shape and BMI (body mass index) issues. But long term effects have not been studied.”

Combining CBT with mirrors may assist obese individuals in maintaining a healthy BMI. Dr. Omondi notes that women report body dissatisfaction due to obesity more often than males.

“The use of a mirror in obese individuals is an emerging research area that is still in its infancy and has not been highly studied,” the study author adds. “The presence of mirrors can be a useful tool to be added to obesity management programs to curb this epidemic by encouraging healthy behaviors.”

“The time spent during mirror exposure is crucial as individuals need to spend a few minutes gazing at themselves in a therapeutic environment to attain self-awareness that will elicit a change,” Omondi tells SWNS. “More research is needed in this field as there exists a gap in this area. This can be added to the list of interventions in obesity management and consequently reduce the health and economic burden of obesity.”

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.