Weight and dieting: examining levels of weight concern in British adults

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2002 Aug;26(8):1144-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802046.


Objective: Amid rising levels of obesity, not all overweight individuals recognize that their weight is too high. At the same time many of those whose weight is within the normal range are dissatisfied with their body size, providing evidence of inappropriate weight aspirations, especially amongst women. This research examines the nature and level of complacency and over-concern in overweight, underweight and normal-weight individuals.

Methods: Data on weight, perceived overweight and dieting status were collected from a stratified probability sample of 1894 British adults, as part of the Office of National Statistics' Omnibus Survey.

Results: Most obese adults correctly perceived themselves as overweight, but many were not trying to lose weight, and only a minority had participated in a programme of weight control. Men's awareness was lower than women's. At the other extreme, few men, but around a quarter of normal-weight women felt overweight or were trying to lose weight, but their preferred weight was only slightly below their actual weight.

Conclusions: :These results suggest that weight concern among British women is high, but probably not excessive and there is little evidence for idealization of dangerously low weights. In contrast, many overweight men were unaware of their weight problem. Only around half of those who would benefit from weight reduction were trying to lose weight, and few had received advice from health professionals. In view of the prevalence of obesity, there may be opportunities to provide more guidance on weight control within primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Body Image*
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Obesity / psychology*