Those with a misperception of body size believed they were healthy, but 35 percent of them had high blood pressure, 15 percent had high cholesterol, 14 percent had diabetes and 27 percent included current smokers. Overall, 2 to 3 percent of the study population perceived an above-normal body size as ideal. Compared to subjects who perceived their ideal body size as normal, those who perceived ideal body size to be above normal were more likely to be women, African American and have a higher body mass index, blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Researchers also found that:
- Those who misperceived their body size were less likely to go to a physician. In fact, 44 percent didn’t visit a physician during the past year, compared to 26 percent of obese participants who correctly perceived they needed to lose weight.
- There was no significant difference between the two groups in socioeconomic status or access to health care due to insurance status.
- Among those who did see a physician in the past year, the obese individuals who did not feel they needed to lose weight were much less likely to report that their physician had told them they needed to lose weight compared to those who perceived they needed to lose weight.
- Obese people who were satisfied with their body size didn’t exercise, while obese individuals who recognized they had a weight problem exercised regularly, on average.
Lead author, Tiffany Powell, M.D., concluded that, “This is an important population that we aren’t seeing or targeting. Understanding and countering this misconception may be a novel and perhaps vitally important target for obesity prevention and treatment. Because many of these individuals believe they are healthier than they really are, they do not go to the doctor and thus community interventions will be needed.”