A Comparison of Body Size Evaluations of Obesity Surgery Patients and General Population Adults


Box 100256, Department of Psychiatry. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL. 32611.


RAND, COLLEEN S. W., JAQUELYN LISS RESNIK, AND ALEX M. C. MACGREGOR. A comparison of body size evaluations of obesity surgery patients and general population adults. Obes Res.

Objective: To compare post-operative obesity surgery patients and general population adults in their assessments of a wide range of body sizes.

Research Methods and Procedures: Obesity surgery patients (n = 274) and general population adults (n = 326) rated ideal and socially acceptable body sizes in separate arrays of babies, children, young adults, and middle-aged and older adults. Nine line figure drawings ranging from very thin to very obese were rated for each array.

Results: Both groups selected the same ideal body size for all arrays except for babies. Both groups rejected obese and very thin body sizes as socially acceptable. However, the obesity surgery patients were more restrictive than general population adults in their ratings of socially acceptable body sizes. Current obesity status did not impact ratings for the patient or general population subjects. In the patient sample, time since surgery did not influence body size evaluations.

Discussion: The study of body size ratings limited only to the “ideal” size may be misleading because it may mask subtle but meaningful differences between groups. The consistent difference in more restrictive ratings of obesity surgery patients compared to general population adults may be due to patients' greater psychological investment in endorsing the societal ideal body size. It may also be due to patients' status as peripheral group members of the normal weight community. The inability of some patients to maintain their post-operative weight loss may be particularly problematic for those who have defined “socially acceptable” body size most narrowly.