Background This study examines the relationship between actual weight status and perceptions of body weight in Bahraini adolescents. The study also investigates the adolescents’ perceptions of parents’ and peers’ opinions of weight.
Methods A cross-sectional survey of 447 Bahraini male and female adolescents aged 12–17 years was conducted. Weight and height were measured and body mass index (BMI) was calculated. A short questionnaire was used to obtain their attitudes towards their weight status, as well as the attitudes of their parents and friends. The nine figure silhouettes illustration was used to measure perception of ideal body image and how it compares with their current body weight.
Results The results revealed a significant discrepancy between adolescents’ perception of body weight and actual BMI. There was a tendency for teenagers to underestimate their weight status, which was especially noteworthy among the overweight and obese. More than half of the girls and about one-third of the boys expressed discontent with their current body weight. One-third (33.5%) and 26.6% of the adolescents thought that their parents and their peers, respectively, would consider them to be overweight or obese. The percentage of adolescents who reported parental or peer underestimation was higher among those classified as overweight or obese than it was among those who were of normal weight.
Conclusion The study shows the existence of a distorted body image as reflected by failure of many overweight or obese adolescents to perceive themselves as such. Among Bahraini adolescents weight-related beliefs and attitudes exist at two ends of the spectrum: a tolerance of obesity at one end and an exaggerated concern for its occurrence at the other.