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Self-Perception of Being Overweight

Not only do many Americans struggle with weight problems, but they often harbor misperceptions about their weight—considering themselves in the correct weight range when they are actually unhealthily overweight, or the reverse, considering themselves overweight when in fact they are not.

  • Almost twice as many women as men who are not overweight think that they are. 25.3% of men and 47.9% of women defined as within their normal weight range think they weigh too much.
  • Overweight women are more realistic than overweight men in recognizing themselves as overweight. 91.8% of women defined as overweight perceive themselves as such, whereas only 83.4% of overweight men consider themselves to be so.
  • The group least forgiving of itself consists of white women between 40 and 59 years who are within their target weight range—a full 59.6% of these women are convinced that they are overweight when they actually aren't.
  • Least concerned about their weight are overweight black men 60 years and older—36.3% of these overweight men don't accept being labeled overweight.
AgePercent of overweight people who think they are overweight
Total1Non-Hispanic whiteNon-Hispanic black
MaleFemaleMaleFemaleMaleFemale
Total83.4%91.8%86.2%94.2%71.9%87.4%
20 to 39 years old84.594.588.897.473.490.9
40 to 59 years old89.095.492.198.074.093.4
60 years old and over73.083.674.686.563.771.7
AgePercent of population not overweight who think they are overweight
Total1Non-Hispanic whiteNon-Hispanic black
MaleFemaleMaleFemaleMaleFemale
Total25.3%47.9%28.1%50.2%13.1%37.5%
20 to 39 years old24.849.528.151.410.141.1
40 to 59 years old27.656.530.759.619.646.5
60 years old and over23.235.324.738.612.613.5
1. Includes other races and persons of Hispanic origin not shown separately.
Source: U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, unpublished data covering 1988–1994.

Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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