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Can J Public Health. 2010 Jan-Feb;101(1):56-60.

The epidemiology of weight perception: perceived versus self-reported actual weight status among Albertan adults.

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Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.



To understand, prevent, and manage weight-related health issues, researchers and clinicians rely on the ability to identify those at risk. Prevention and management strategies may also rely on accurate self-perception of weight and body composition in the general population.


We analyzed data from The Tomorrow Project (n = 7,436), a prospective cohort study enrolling adults aged 35-69 years, in Alberta, Canada. Weight perception accuracy was defined based on body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and a combined (BMI and WC) risk profile.


The majority of participants correctly perceived themselves as overweight. Women were more accurate than men in identifying themselves as overweight. In terms of inaccuracy, more normal-weight women than men perceived themselves to be overweight, while more overweight men than women perceived themselves as about the right weight. When using the combined risk profile, all men with normal weight (BMI) but higher risk WC perceived their weight as about right whereas just under half of men who were overweight (BMI) but lower risk WC perceived their weight as about right. For women, a much higher proportion recognized their weight status as overweight when only BMI was elevated compared to when only WC indicated higher risk.


Adults in our sample showed reasonable accuracy in weight perception. Gender differences reveal that women were more accurate than men in identifying themselves as overweight. Incongruence between weight status indicators was noted, indicating the importance of using both BMI and waist circumference as health status measures.

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