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J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Mar;23(3):323-8. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0499-3. Epub 2008 Jan 15.

Factors associated with misperception of weight in the stroke belt.

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  • 1Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170, USA.



Understanding the reasons for overweight and obesity is critical to addressing the obesity epidemic. Often the decision to lose weight is based as much on one's self-perception of being overweight as on inherent health benefits.


Examine the relationships between self-reported health and demographic factors and measured health risk status and the misperception of actual weight status.


Cross-sectional study of factors associated with self-perceived overweight status in participants who self-selected to participate in stroke risk factor screenings. Participants were asked, "Are you overweight?" before their body mass index (BMI) was determined from measured weight and self-reported height. Demographics including, sex, race, education, and location; and health status variables including level of exercise and history of high blood pressure and cholesterol were collected.


Mean BMI for the group was 30 kg/m(2). Most women (53.1%) perceived themselves to be overweight, whereas most men (59.6%) perceived themselves not to be overweight. Factors related to misperception of weight status varied by actual BMI category. Among individuals with normal BMI, sedentary individuals had 63% higher odds of misperceiving themselves as overweight. Sedentary individuals with obese BMI were at 55% reduced odds of misperceiving themselves as normal weight.


Active obese and overweight individuals may be more likely to incorrectly perceive themselves as normal weight, and thus misperceive their risk for stroke. Thus, it is not enough to only counsel individuals to be active. Physicians and other health professionals need to counsel their clients to both be active and to attain and maintain a healthy weight.

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