Attempts to reduce the stigma associated with “plus-size” body shapes may lead to an increasing number of people underestimating their weight and undermine efforts to tackle obesity crisis, a new study has warned.
The researcher has linked plus-size clothing with an unintentional negative consequence that may prevent recognition of the health risks of being overweight.
The results, published in the journal Obesity, showed that the number of overweight individuals who are misperceiving their weight has increased over time, from 48.4 per cent to 57.9 per cent in men and 24.5 per cent to 30.6 per cent in women.
Similarly, among individuals classified as obese, the proportion of men misperceiving their weight in 2015 was almost double that of 1997 (12 per cent vs 6.6 per cent).
“To achieve effective public health intervention programmes, it is, therefore, vital to prioritise inequalities in overweight and obesity-related risks,” said co-author Raya Muttarak, from University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England.
“Identifying those prone to misperceiving their weight can help in designing obesity-prevention strategies targeting the specific needs of different groups,” Muttarak added.
For the study, the researchers analysed data of almost 23,460 overweight or obese people, from five years — 1997, 1998, 2002, 2014, and 2015.
The researchers also found that men and individuals with lower levels of education and income were more likely to underestimate their weight status and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.
The proportion underestimating their weight status was higher among overweight individuals compared with those with obesity (40.8 per cent vs 8.4 per cent), the researchers said.
Correspondingly, only about half of overweight individuals were trying to lose weight compared with more than two-thirds of people with obesity, they added.