New research warns that the normalisation of 'plus-size' body shapes may be leading to an increasing number of people underestimating their weight, undermining efforts to tackle England's ever-growing obesity problem.
An analysis of data from almost 23,460 people who are overweight or obese revealed that weight misperception has increased in England. Men and individuals with lower levels of education and income are more likely to underestimate their weight status and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.
Members of minority ethnic groups are also more likely to underestimate their weight than the white population, however they are more likely to try to lose weight.
The findings, published in the journal Obesity, show that the number of overweight individuals who are misperceiving their weight has increased over time. Among men, the rate was 48.4% in 1997, rising to 57.9% in 2015. Among women the rates were 24.5% and 30.6%, respectively. The increase in weight misperception was even greater in individuals classified as obese.
Those underestimating their overweight and obesity status were 85% less likely to try to lose weight compared with people who accurately identified their weight status.
The study author says the high level of weight misperception among individuals who are overweight “represents unsuccessful interventions of health professionals in tackling overweight and obesity.”