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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Sep;16(9):2120-5. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.306.

Over, under, or about right: misperceptions of body weight among food stamp participants.

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  • 1Economic Research Service, US Department of Agriculture, Washington, District of Columbia, USA.


The purpose of this research was to investigate the associations between misperception of body weight and sociodemographic factors such as food stamp participation status, income, education, and race/ethnicity. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data from 1999-2004 and multivariate logistic regression are used to estimate how sociodemographic factors are associated with (i) the probability that overweight adults misperceive themselves as healthy weight; (ii) the probability that healthy-weight adults misperceive themselves as underweight; and (iii) the probability that healthy-weight adults misperceive themselves as overweight. NHANES data are representative of the US civilian noninstitutionalized population. The analysis included 4,362 men and 4,057 women. BMI derived from measured weight and height was used to classify individuals as healthy weight or overweight. These classifications were compared with self-reported categorical weight status. We find that differences across sociodemographic characteristics in the propensity to underestimate or overestimate weight status were more pronounced for women than for men. Overweight female food stamp participants were more likely to underestimate weight status than income-eligible nonparticipants. Among healthy-weight and overweight women, non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American women, and women with less education were more likely to underestimate actual weight status. We found few differences across sociodemographic characteristics for men. Misperceptions of weight are common among both overweight and healthy-weight individuals and vary across socioeconomic and demographic groups. The nutrition education component of the Food Stamp Program could increase awareness of healthy body weight among participants.

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