Fewer teens now VIEW themselves as overweight even though record number are MEDICALLY obese
The vast majority of teens now underestimate their body weight to the detriment of their health, a new global study suggests.
Nearly 14 percent of adolescents thought they were lighter than they actually were, while more than a quarter overestimated their weight
That’s despite the nationwide rise in obesity, with 43 percent of adults and 25 percent of youth qualifying as medically overweight or having a body mass index over 30.
The researchers said the widespread misconception about weight indicates that teens are less likely to adopt healthy lifestyles, especially as a move toward body positivity and self-acceptance normalizes and downplays the risks of obesity.
In the study of more than 746,000 adolescents ages 11 to 15 (average age of 13.7 years), girls were more likely than boys to underestimate their weight, suggesting higher levels of self-acceptance, the researchers say
Childhood obesity rates in the US increased 17% from 2011 to 2020, with those ages 12 to 19 most at risk
Dr. Anouk Geraets said: ‘So it is concerning that we are seeing a trend where fewer adolescents consider themselves overweight, as this could undermine ongoing efforts to tackle rising obesity in this age group.
Dr. Geraets, a social scientist at the University of Luxembourg and lead author added: ‘Young people who underestimate their weight and therefore do not consider themselves overweight may not feel they need to lose excess weight and as a result may put on more weight. to lose. unhealthy lifestyle choices.’
The study, published in the journal Obesity in children and adolescents reported that from 2002 to 2018, women and men in 41 countries were more likely to underestimate their weight.
Meanwhile, rates of weight overestimation decreased, meaning teens were more likely to see themselves as thinner than they actually were.
Compared to teenage boys, girls are more likely to underestimate their weight, which experts behind the study say could mean girls are becoming more self-accepting of their sizes and less fixated on the number that shows up on the scale.
The study took place in 41 countries, including the US, Canada and many in Europe. In countries with more overweight and obesity, teens were more likely to falsely underestimate their weight.
The social scientists behind the study were concerned about the negative effects these trends will have on public health guidelines for curbing rising obesity rates.
As fewer adolescents acknowledge that they are medically overweight or obese, they continue down a path of poorer health compared to normal-weight people.
The authors said: ‘As a result, fewer adolescents will be involved in weight reduction than before, reducing the effectiveness of public health interventions aimed at weight reduction.’
The team collected health data from the Health Behavior in School-Aged Children (HBSC) study, an international research initiative of the World Health Organization that dates back to 1983.
They looked at the survey responses of more than 746,000 adolescents whose average age was 13.7 every four years between 2002 and 2018. They were asked how much they weigh without clothes on and how tall they were without shoes to calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI).
Over the study period, more and more adolescents underestimated their weight, while the number of overestimates decreased.
As time went on, teenage girls were more likely than boys to think they were lighter than they actually were. Boys also had an increasing tendency to underestimate their weight, but to a lesser extent.
Teenagers of both sexes showed a decreasing trend in overestimating their weight over time.
The decline was slightly stronger in girls than in boys, meaning that girls were increasingly less likely to think they were heavier than they actually were.
To assess weight perception, the social scientists from Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Norway, Finland, Italy, Ireland, Armenia, Malta, Serbia and Germany conducted a thorough screening of the teens involved in the study.
The 746,000 subjects had to answer the following question: ‘Do you think your body…?’ with the answer options ‘much too thin’, ‘a little too thin’, ‘about the right size’, ‘a little too fat’ and ‘much too fat’.
Subjects answered whether they considered themselves to be normal weight, underweight, or overweight/obese, with zero representing underweight, one representing normal, and two representing overweight.
Despite obesity figures tripling worldwide since the 1970sthe researchers reported that girls seemed to be better at estimating their weight than boys.
While the team found that teens living in countries with higher obesity rates were more likely to underestimate and less likely to overestimate their weight status, the researchers said changes in those rates over time did not explain the changes in perception, because the effect of the survey year on the body weight perception did not change significantly.
Girls were generally more likely than their male counterparts to consider themselves overweight, regardless of obesity rates in their home countries. dangerous weight loss steps such as starvation and purging.
The study authors said: ‘The decrease in overestimation and increase in correct weight perception in girls may reflect an increase in positive body image, which is associated with health benefits.
“Changes may reflect programs and efforts to emphasize the functionality of a person’s body rather than just body size.”