Researchers say this misperception may affect weight-related behaviors and increase the risk of cardiovascular and other obesity-related diseases.
To investigate researchers analyzed survey questions about height, weight, weight perceptions and weight-related behaviors from more than 2,200 women aged 18-25 years old.
Women with BMIs below 25 were considered normal weight and those with BMIs of 25 or more were considered overweight.
Overall, 52 percent of the study participants were considered overweight or obese.
Researchers divided the women into four categories: "overweight misperceives," overweight women who describe themselves as under- or normal weight; "overweight accurate perceivers," overweight women who described themselves as overweight; "normal weight misperceives," normal weight women who described themselves as overweight; and "normal weight accurate perceivers," normal weight women who described themselves as normal- or under-weight.
They found that nearly 25 percent of overweight and 16 percent of normal weight reproductive-age women misperceive their body weight.
Researchers also examined weight-related behaviors including the use of diet pills, laxatives or diuretics; skipping meals; dieting/eating less or differently; smoking more cigarettes; and not eating carbohydrates. Respondents were also asked about the number of days over the last week that they exercised for at least 30 minutes continuously.
Researchers found that overweight women who misperceived their weight had significantly lower odds of participating in healthy or unhealthy weight-related behaviors.
Normal weight misperceives were more than twice as likely to diet, skip meals and smoke more cigarettes.
Researchers say the findings are especially concerning since overweight women who misperceived their weight were less likely to practice healthy weight loss behaviours, negatively impacting obesity prevention. Likewise, normal weight women who misperceived their weight were more likely to practice unhealthy weight loss behaviors that can lead to harmful medical and psychological consequences.
The findings were published in the December issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
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