Obese people usually don’t know they’re obese, study finds
and World Science staff
Do obese people know they’re obese?
Not really, a new study suggests: obese people judge their weight pretty well, but they tend to not realize, or to blind themselves to their obesity.
Obese people often don’t consider themselves obese because they apparently misjudge what weight constitutes obesity, according to the research.
Kimberly Truesdale of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented the findings April 4 as part of a scientific program of the American Society of Nutrition at Experimental Biology 2006, a conference in San Francisco.
Her team asked 104 adults—male and female, white and black—to report their weight in pounds and to categorize themselves as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
They also asked the participants to estimate how much they would need to weigh to be considered obese. The researchers classified each participant as normal weight, overweight or obese based on their Body Mass Index, a standard, widely used measure that takes into account weight and height.
There were 31 normal weight, 40 overweight, and 33 obese adults in the group, according to the scientists.
About 90 percent of normal-weight adults, and 85 percent of overweight and obese adults, were found to report their weight and height accurately enough so that, using widely available Body Mass Index charts, they could have drawn correct conclusions about which of these categories they fit into.
But not everyone drew these conclusions. Seventy-one percent of normal weight and 73 percent of overweight adults were found to classify themselves correctly, compared to only 15 percent of obese adults.
The researchers also asked participants how much they would have to weigh to be considered underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. On average, they found that normal-weight participants were reasonably accurate in these estimates. But obese people overstated how much they could weigh for each category, from underweight to obese.
For example, a normal-weight person of height 5’7” (1.7 m) would typically define obesity as 189 lbs. (86 kg). An obese participant the same height would judge 233 lbs. (106 kg). The actual dividing line is 191 lbs. (87kg.) for that height.
The findings have important public health implications, the researchers said. If obese adults don’t think themselves obese, they’re unlikely to fully tune in to public health messages on the many health risks associated with obesity, which can include heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
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