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Study Asks Adults in Great Britain to Self-Assess Obesity

The first step in overcoming a problem is recognizing that you have one. Unfortunately, many obese adults in Great Britain think they weigh less than they actually do.

A study published in the British Medical Journal Open (2014; 4:e005561), featuring 657 adults with obesity, set out to compare survey respondents’ self-perceptions of weight against commonly held standards of obesity and overweight. The researchers found that in 2012, 11% of obese women and 7% of obese men classified themselves as obese. Among overweight women, 50% assessed their weight accurately in 2007, but that number dropped to 34% in 2012. A person was more likely to self-identify as obese if he or she had a significant understanding of body mass index threshold.

The researchers posited that the misidentification of body weight could be due in part to a “normalization” of larger bodies. The authors believe educating people on what constitutes obesity can mitigate this trend.

“Effective channels of communication are needed in order to counteract a perception among obese individuals that obesity is an extreme state and the term ‘obese’ does not apply to them,” they suggested. “Otherwise, increasing numbers of those whose weight represents a risk to their health are likely to remain unaware of the personal relevance of weight-related health messages.”

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