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Weight Perceptions Among U.K. Teenagers

Experts often say that the first step in overcoming a problem is to recognize that you have one. Researchers from the Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London raise concerns that some teenagers may not realize they are overweight. The report, published in the International Journal of Obesity (2015; doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.126), focuses on the self-reported weight perceptions of 4,979 boys and girls aged 13–15. The teenagers were asked whether they thought their weight was “about right,” “too heavy” or “too light.” Answers were compared against BMI standard deviation scores and International Obesity Task Force standards.

Here is a break down of what the researchers discovered:

  • 83% of normal-weight boys and 84% of
    normal-weight girls correctly identified
    themselves as “about right.”
  • 4% of normal-weight boys and 11% of
    normal-weight girls incorrectly considered
    themselves “too heavy.”
  • 53% of overweight boys and 68% of over-
    weight girls correctly identified themselves
    as “too heavy.”
  • 47% of overweight boys and 32% of over-
    weight girls incorrectly identified themselves as “about right” or “too light.”

“Overestimation of body weight among
normal-weight adolescents is relatively uncommon; potentially a cause for celebration,” the authors said. “However, almost half of boys and a third of girls with a BMI placing them in the overweight or obese BMI range perceived themselves to be about the right weight. Lack of awareness of excess weight among overweight and obese adolescents could be cause for concern.”

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