• body mass index;
  • obesity;
  • body image


Objective: To compare the self-perception of overweight in the study population according to sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status and to compare the self-perception of overweight among individuals classified as normal weight, overweight, and obese.

Research Methods and Procedures: Data from 5440 adults who participated in the 1994 to 1996 Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals and the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were analyzed. Data for analysis included self-perceived weight status, self-reported weight and height, and demographic and socioeconomic data. Underweight individuals, defined as those with a body mass index <18.5 kg/m2, were excluded from the analysis.

Results: Self-perception of overweight was more common in women compared with men and in whites compared with blacks or Hispanics. Both the correct and incorrect perception of overweight was more common in normal weight and overweight white women compared with black women. More overweight and obese white men correctly perceived their overweight status compared with black men. Multiple logistic regression showed that the odds ratio of perceived overweight was significantly higher in women, whites, and individuals with higher body mass index, higher income, and higher education.

Discussion: Self-perceived overweight varied by sex, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Erroneous perception of body weight may have important health and behavioral implications. In particular, a considerable proportion of overweight men may be at risk of obesity if they continue to perceive themselves as having normal weight.