Most Obese Mothers and Children Underestimate Their Weight

Most Obese Mothers and Children Underestimate Their Weight

A growing number of obese Americans perceive themselves as being slimmer than they actually are. A new study from Columbia University Medical Center in New York shows that among more than 200 obese mothers and children, this continuing trend may be putting many at greater risk of serious health issues. Findings of the new research were recently presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Atlanta, Georgia.

About one-third of children and two-thirds of adults living in the U.S. are now either overweight or obese. With the growing problem of obesity in America, it appears that the perception of being overweight is being re-defined in such a way as to lead many who are in serious need of losing weight to see their weight as being normal. In light of this dangerous trend, it comes as no surprise that the rates of diabetes and other chronic diseases continue to rise.

For their study, the researchers interviewed 111 women, and 111 children ranging in age from 7 to 13, to gather information regarding age, income and body size. In addition, the height, weight, and body mass index measurements of each participant were taken. Approximately 80 of subjects were Hispanic, and the rest were either black, Asian or white. Among the group, about 66 percent of the Mothers, and 39 percent of the children were either overweight or obese.

The participants were shown images of body silhouettes depicting various body weights ranging from underweight and normal weight, to overweight, obese, and extremely obese. When the subjects compared themselves to the silhouettes, findings showed that 82 percent of obese women, and 42.5 percent of overweight women underestimated their weight. In addition, about 13 percent of women having a normal viewed themselves as being thinner than they were. Among the children in the study, 86 percent of those who were overweight or obese underestimated their weight, as did 15 percent of those being of normal weight.

But it didn’t stop there. In addition to misguided self-perceptions about weight, close to half of the study participants projected the lighter image to their family members. Findings showed that 47.5 of mothers of overweight or obese children thought their children were at a healthy weight, while 41 percent of children whose mothers were overweight or obese thought their parent needed to lose weight.

Regarding the findings, lead author of the study, Nicole E. Dumas, M.D., an internal medicine resident at Columbia, “A lot of their misperception has to do with the fact that overweight and obesity is becoming the norm.” She also pointed out, “There was a trend that showed that as women became more and more overweight, and then obese, the larger the misperception of true body weight was. Unfortunately, we found this was the case with the children as well.”

Although Dumas acknowledged that the findings may not be respesentative of the American population as a whole, she noted that other studies have found similar trends. Indeed, in a 2009 survey, when participants were asked to evaluate their weight stage based on their body mass index, thirty percent of those measuring in the overweight class said they were of normal weight, while 70 percent of the obese respondents believed they were only overweight. In addition, sixty percent of morbidly obese respondents said they were merely obese.

Similarly, in the report F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010, published by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, researchers found that an increasing number of children are either overweight or obese and that their parents are in denial. Parents who were polled about their children overwhelmingly—to the tune of 84 percent— rated their children as having a normal or healthy weight, while in fact that was not true in many of the cases.

With obesity affecting more than 30 percent of adults, as well as over 30 percent of children in America, it’s time to cut the calories and get more exercise. Our nation’s health is at stake, and we all need to take responsibility for our own individual health as well as that of our families.


About Meganita Marannu

Accounting student
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