Weight perception and weight control practice in a multiethnic sample of US adolescents

South Med J. 2009 Apr;102(4):354-60. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e318198720b.


Objectives: Obesity is disproportionately prevalent among many racial/ethnic minority groups. The main objectives of this study are (1) to examine the extent of body weight misperception for a representative sample of US adolescents; (2) to explore the gender and racial/ethnic differences associated with an adolescents' weight goals and weight loss attempts and; (3) to examine the influence of an array of sociodemographic factors (eg socioeconomic status) on body weight misperception in adolescents.

Methods: A sample of 2,195 adolescents (aged 10 to 18 years) enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005-2006) was examined. Adolescents' weight and height were measured by lab exams. Perception of weight status, weight goals, and weight loss attempts were obtained by questionnaire. Participants' self-perceptions of their current weight status were compared to classification of their body mass index (BMI) in order to determine concordance. We used multinomial logistic regression models to assess the predictive effects of various sociodemographic factors on weight misperception.

Results: Twenty-five percent of girls and 33.2% of boys misperceived their weight status by medical standards. Significant sex and racial/ethnic differences existed in weight perception, attempts to lose weight, and weight goals. Multivariate analysis revealed that age, gender, marital status of parent/guardian were independently associated with the misperception of weight status, controlling for body mass index.

Conclusions: Differences in weight perception, weight goals, and weight loss attempts among ethnic and racial groups call for targeted obesity control efforts.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Weight Loss
  • Weight Perception*