As obesity is rising in the United States, so is the misconception about body image. According to a March 23 article from USA Today, a study done by Columbia University Medical Center shows that mothers who are obese or overweight tend to not view themselves as so, and if their children are overweight or obese these mothers also see their children as being of normal weight.
This study had its participants — 80 percent of which were Hispanic, while the rest were Asian, African-American or Caucasian — look at different silhouettes of women and children and then had them tell the researcher which of the silhouettes they most identified with. The study included true-to-life statistics, with 66 percent of mothers being obese or overweight and 39 percent of children being too heavy.
The study showed 82 percent of obese women underestimated their weight in response to the silhouettes, and 43 percent of overweight women did the same. Along with this, 86 percent of obese children underestimated their weight, while only 15 percent of children of a normal weight did this. Almost half of the mothers thought their overweight children were a healthy weight, but 41 percent of children thought their mothers should lose weight.
According to Nicole Dumas, who led the study, these misconceptions may stem from the increasing normality of overweight and obese Americans.
Because childhood obesity is such a large problem in America, this lack of reality when dealing with one’s true weight shows how people really don’t want to deal with it. Weight can be a fairly touchy subject. The problem with viewing oneself as being more slender than one actually are is that one are lying to yourself. By not accepting one’s real weight, one isn’t allowing yourself the ability to change. When news programs show studies on obesity, it doesn’t mean people will link these stories to their own weight.
To really combat this issue, doctors need to step up in letting their patients know exactly how much they weigh and where they are on the Body Mass Index scale. Coupled with this, doctors should tell their patients what a healthy weight is and how they can really achieve this weight. Pediatricians should do the same with the mothers of their patients. If doctors let their patients know what a healthy weight is and give them the steps to achieve that weight, then hopefully these unreal body perceptions can become more of a reality as patients begin taking care of themselves.
KC Aransen is a sophomore psychology major from Arlington.