Many Obese Don't See the Problem

They often label themselves normal-weight or slightly overweight, study finds

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TUESDAY, April 4, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Many obese Americans don't consider themselves obese, a new study finds.

The study included 104 white and black men and women, ages 45 to 64, who were asked to report their weight in pounds; categorize themselves as either underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese; and estimate how much they would need to weigh in order to be considered obese.

Based on the participants' body mass index (BMI), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found there were 31 normal weight people, 40 overweight people and 33 obese people in the study group.

About 90 percent of the normal weight people and 85 percent of the overweight and obese people accurately self-reported their own weight and height, the researchers reported Tuesday at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting in San Francisco.

However, just 15 percent of obese people correctly considered themselves to be obese, compared with the 71 percent of normal-weight individuals and 73 percent of overweight people who classified themselves correctly.

The obese people were also more likely to overestimate how much they would need to weigh in order to be considered obese.

The researchers said their findings have important implications, because obese adults who don't consider themselves obese are unlikely to heed public health messages about the dangers of obesity. Denial and misperception may be two factors that influence why obese people don't consider themselves to be obese, the study author suggested.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about overweight and obesity.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, news release, April 4, 2006

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