Obese and overweight women, children underestimate true weight

March 23, 2011, American Heart Association

Overweight and obese mothers and their children think they weigh less than their actual weight, according to research reported at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions.

In the study of women and children in an urban, predominantly Hispanic population, most normal weight women and children in the study correctly estimated their body weight, but most and children underestimated theirs.

"Obesity is a well-known risk factor for the development of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes," said Nicole E Dumas, M.D., lead author and an internal medicine resident at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Dumas and colleagues surveyed women and their pre-adolescent children attending an urban, primary care center in New York City. They asked the subjects about their age, income, risk factors, and perceptions of their body size using silhouette images that corresponded to specific (BMI) types — for example, underweight, normal and overweight.

The researchers also recorded participants' height, weight and BMI, which is a measurement of body weight based on height. A BMI of 25-29 is overweight, and a BMI over 30 is obese.

The researchers found:

  • 65.8 percent of the mothers surveyed were overweight or obese.
  • 38.9 percent of children surveyed were overweight or obese.
  • 81.8 percent of obese women underestimated their weight compared to 42.5 percent of overweight and 13.2 percent of normal weight women; similarly, 86 percent of overweight or obese children underestimated their weight compared to 15 percent of normal weight children.
  • Of mothers with or obese children, almost half (47.5 percent) thought their children were of normal weight.
  • Children selected larger body images than those chosen by their mothers to describe an "ideal" or "healthy" body image for a woman.
  • 41.4 percent of the children in the study thought their moms should lose weight.
"These findings imply that not only is obesity prevalent in urban America, but that those most affected by it are either unaware or underestimate their true weight," she said. "In addition, obesity has become an acceptable norm in some families. Strategies to overcome the obesity epidemic will need to address this barrier to weight loss."

Future research should include interventions that study the effect of increased accuracy of body image perception on weight loss among families.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Evening hours may pose higher risk for overeating, especially when under stress, study finds

January 16, 2018
Experiments with a small group of overweight men and women have added to evidence that "hunger hormone" levels rise and "satiety (or fullness) hormone" levels decrease in the evening. The findings also suggest that stress ...

Bariatric surgery prolongs lifespan in obese

January 16, 2018
Obese, middle-age men and women who had bariatric surgery have half the death rate of those who had traditional medical treatment over a 10-year period, reports a study that answers questions about the long-term risk of the ...

Sugar-sweetened drinks linked to overweight and obesity in children, adults: Analysis of new studies

December 23, 2017
A new review of the latest evidence on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)- which includes 30 new studies published between 2013 and 2015 (and none of them industry sponsored) - concludes that SSB consumption is associated with ...

As income rises, women get slimmer—but not men

December 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—A comprehensive survey on the widening American waistline finds that as paychecks get bigger, women's average weight tends to drop.

Policy and early intervention can curb obesity rates

December 18, 2017
More information and emphasis on dietary lifestyle changes that prevent obesity, and its comorbidities, have not reduced the rise in obesity in U.S. adults and adolescents, according to a recent study in the New England Journal ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.