A cross-sectional analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data in the US found that more than 40 per cent of American adults were overweight and nearly 10 per cent with obesity did not consider themselves to be overweight. Such a lack of self-awareness about one’s body image has a much wider impact on individuals taking the necessary action to address the problem.
This trend has increased over the last two decades and was especially true of persons from a low socio-economic background, according to findings published in the ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’.
Researchers from the University of Chicago Medicine analysed the NHANES data to investigate the trends of overweight and obesity self-awareness among adults who are overweight or obese.
They also looked at factors associated with obesity self-awareness and weight loss attempts among adults with obesity. Survey participants were asked about self-perception of weight using the question: "Do you consider yourself to be overweight, underweight, or about the right weight?" They found that more than a significant proportion of those overweight or obese did not recognize the issue.
The authors say that as BMIs of Americans increase, people adjust their views on normal weight range to promote positive body images and suggest the use of varying BMI cut-offs to define overweight and obesity may be necessary when comparing varying demographic subsets.
The authors still emphasise that this study data showed persons with obesity who did not view their weight to be overweight were less likely to try to lose weight and this may contribute to increasing obesity rates.
The authors also found that health professional guided education on weight improved both obesity self-awareness and attempts to lose weight among persons with obesity. However, having health insurance did not affect obesity self-awareness, suggesting health professionals are not routinely providing weight counselling to patients with obesity.