We always hear how young girls falsely perceive their body weight as “too fat”, usually leading to higher risk of eating disorders and malnoursihment. On the other end of the scale, figuratively and literary, there are many overweight people who thinks their body weight is “OK”, thus having no motivation to lose weight and change lifestyles.
The Dallas Heart Study studied 5,893 people. Of these, more than a third are obese, and of this third, 8% misperceive their body size, resulting in the following misconceptions:
- They do not need to lose weight
- They can afford to gain weight.
- They are less likely to do physical exercise.
- They are less likely to consult a physician.
- They believe they were healthier than others their age.
- They are not aware they had risk factors for certain diseases.
According to lead author Dr. Tiffany Powell, a cardiology fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
“Almost one in 10 obese individuals are satisfied with their body size and didn’t perceive that they need to lose weight. That is a sizeable percentage who don’t understand they are overweight and believe they are healthy.”
- In fact, these overweight people who perceived their body size as ideal had some health issues that they were not fully aware of. Some of these are:
- 35% had high blood pressure
- 15% had high cholesterol
- 14% had diabetes
- 27% were current smokers
In a similar way, studies have shown that many parents may not be capable of perceiving their children’s weight status. Many would dismiss children’s excess weight as the normal “baby fat” that comes with childhood.
I don’t really believe in obsessively watching every pound gained and every calorie taken in. I am also not in favor on putting too much emphasis on weight and body size. But we should be realistic as to how we perceive our body size, not for appearances but for the sake of our health.
Dr. Powell continues:
“This is an important population that we aren’t seeing or targeting. Understanding and countering this misconception may be a novel and perhaps vitally important target for obesity prevention and treatment. Because many of these individuals believe they are healthier than they really are, they do not go to the doctor and thus community interventions will be needed…The onus falls on us as physicians to determine who this population is and how to talk with them.”