Body size perception among African American women

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014 Sep-Oct;46(5):412-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2014.03.002.


Objective: To assess body size perception among African American women using cultural definitions of body size terms.

Methods: Sixty-nine African American women classified Body Image Scale figures as overweight, obese, and too fat, and independently selected the figure they considered closest to their current body size.

Results: Body size classifications of figures did not vary by participant weight status. Overweight figures were not considered too fat. For 86% of overweight (body mass index [BMI], 25-29.9) women and 40% of obese (BMI > 30) women, the self figure was not defined as overweight, obese, or too fat. Among participants with BMI ≥ 35, 65% did not classify their self figure as obese and 29% did not classify their self figure as overweight.

Conclusions and implications: The difference between cultural (folk) and medical definitions of body size terms may serve as a barrier to effective communication between patients and providers about health effects of excess adiposity.

Keywords: African American women; body image; body mass index; overweight; weight perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chicago
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Overweight / psychology*
  • Size Perception*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires