A new study warns that the media “normalization” of plus-size body types may be fueling the obesity epidemic.
Research analysis of data gathered from 23,460 British people who are overweight or obese revealed that overweight individuals are increasingly underestimating their weight.
The study says people who think they’re thinner than they actually are 85 percent less likely to try to slim down compared to those who accurately estimate their true size.
The results, which were published in the medical journal Obesity, show that the number of overweight individuals who chronically underestimate their size has increased between 1997 and 2015: from 24.5 percent to 30.6 percent in women and 48.4 percent to 57.9 percent in men.
The study suggests that being bombarded with images of “plus-size” models may be leading people to assume that being overweight or obese is the new normal so they feel less incentive to lose weight.
Study: Less-Educated More Likely To Underestimate Weight
The study was conducted by Dr. Raya Muttarak from the University of East Anglia and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.
Dr. Muttarak’s research also shows that minorities and the less-educated segments of the population are more likely to underestimate their weight.
The research sheds new light on alarming statistics indicating that 63 percent of adults in the U.K. are overweight or obese.
In the United States, an estimated 160 million Americans are either obese or overweight (the total U.S. population is about 326 million).
Nearly 75 percent of American men and more than 60 percent of women are obese or overweight, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Dr. Muttarak said retailers who are trying to cash in on the skyrocketing plus-size population are partly responsible for the “normalization” of obesity.
“Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese,” Dr. Muttarak wrote. “While this type of body positive movement helps reduce stigmatization of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences.”
Over the years, the fashion industry — which has long exulted super-skinny models — has been blamed for fueling body dysmorphia and the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia. Now it seems the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.
Dr. Raya Muttarak’s study does not condemn obesity or say overweight people shouldn’t be happy with themselves.
It’s more of a sobering wake-up call about the health consequences of excess weight, which increases the risks of diabetes, early mortality, heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
“The continuing problem of people underestimating their weight reflects unsuccessful interventions of health professionals in tackling the overweight and obesity issue,” Muttarak wrote.