Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Do You Really Weigh What You Actually Weigh?

Look at yourself in the full-length mirror.

You think your weight is OK? Perhaps just a little pot belly, expanded waistline, love handles, a few extra pounds --- but, hey, better than the next door Big Joe's beer gut.

What does the weight scale reading tell you?

Are you in the healthy weight range?

Are you aware of the health risks associated with overweight and obesity, particularly excessive belly fat?

Are you comfortable with your current weight?

According to a research study authored by Bennett and Wolin, most overweight and obese people underestimate their "perceived" bodyweight compared to their "real" bodyweight.

Although there are differences among races and genders, overweight and obese people "think" that they weigh less than they really are. In fact, they weight more than their "perceived" bodyweight.

This weight "misconception" becomes accepted in these overweight or obese people due to sociocultural influences among many possible reasons.

The study group sent out a standard perceived weight question to participlants, "Do you consider yourself now to be overweight, underweight, or about the right weight?" All participants are overweight or obese. They are divided into groups by gender (Men or Women) by race/ethnicity (White, Black, Hispanic or Other).

There is a great debate in the health community on classification of weight status by Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is still the single most straightfoward and conveneint measurement for research purposes. A complimentary body fat and girth measurements would give an more accurate body composition and fat distribution.

Do you know your BMI? Find out here >>

A well muscled person could be wrongly classified as overweight (BMI greater than 25) with just 8% body fat. BMI alone has its limitations, but a relatively reliable tool for tracking overweight and obesity rates. If you're lean and fit, don't worry too much about your BMI number.

Read more about BMI and body fat >>

The study utilized standard thresholds to classify individuals as normal/underweight (BMI less than 25), overweight (BMI larger than or equal to 25, but less than 30) or obese (BMI larger than or equal to 30)

Here are their findings:

  • Across racial/ethnic categories, men were more likely to misperceive their weight status than women.
  • Comparing racial/ethnic categories, for both men and women, Blacks were most likely and White were least likely to misperceive their weight status.
  • For both men and women across racial/ethnic categories, the weight staus misconception was higher among overweight than obese participants.


  • The U.S. adult population is estimated over 65% overweight or obese. U.S. obesity rates are still rising every year with no sign of slowing down. So today when you say or think that you're about "average", you are actually at least slightly overweight.

    When we're surrounded by more and more overweight or obese people around us, our brain slowly perceives and accepts the overweight body image as the norm. It could become culturally and socially acceptable of higher bodyweight and heavier body shapes. It's a problem when people fail to realize the health risks associated with overweight or obesity.

    Learn how to fight obesity here >>

    You can argue that you do have muscles here and there. In fact, you're likely to have excess body fat here and there as well unless you've been seriously weight-training or bodybuilding. That's why body fat measurement along with BMI and lean muscle mass would give a more accurate body composition.

    Don't underestimate the power of your friends, particularly the five of your closest friends, in your weight loss program. The acceptance or intolerance of unhealthy habits in your circle of friends could break or win your weight loss battle. Hire a fitness coach. Pick your own fitness mastermind support group. Surround yourself with health-conscious and fitness-minded people.

    The secret to weight loss is no secret at all. It's not weight training, cardio exercise, or eating healthy. They are all important essential elements to your weight loss success. The fundamental key is your performance lifestyle.

    Correcting mispeceptions of weight status may be necessary to actively and successfully engage overweight and obese individuals. As with what Bennett commented, "We think that mispercention can be very useful when it comes to protecting people against overly stringent body image ideals and eating disorders."

    The study findings suggest that information and concern about obesity epidemic in the U.S. hasn't had enough impact on overweight people's recognition of their excess pounds.

    More education is needed to raise the awareness of overweight and obesity and importance of losing excess bodyweight or fat. It's more than just for healthy body image, but lowering health risks and social cost.

    References:
    Bennett, G.G., Wolin, K.Y., "Satisfied or unaware? Racial differences in perceived weight status," IJBNPA, 3:40, 2006. http://www.ijnapa.org/content/3/1/40

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