Are there hidden dangers to the so-called normalization of plus size? According to a new research, although it promotes body positivity, it may also undermine the efforts made to address the ongoing obesity problem.

‘Normalization’ Of Plus Size

In recent years, body positivity campaigns have given people of all sizes the confidence to embrace their own size and shape, without conforming to any supposed “ideal” body type and size. However, new research finds that the “normalization” of plus size actually poses hidden dangers of obesity as a result of weight underestimation.

Data from over 23,000 people were analyzed, and it was revealed that weight misperception has increased in England, meaning that there are now more people who tend to underestimate their weight status and are therefore less likely to make efforts to lose weight. Evidently, men with lower education levels and lower income are more at risk of this misperception.

The author found that in the almost two-decade period between 1997 and 2015, the number of people with weight misperception has risen. Specifically, this misperception has increased from 48.4 percent to 57.9 percent among men, while the number has risen from 24.5 percent to 30.6 percent among women. Moreover, this trend was also apparent in individuals who are classified as obese, as the weight perception of obese men almost doubled from 6.6 percent in 1997 to 12 percent in 2015.

Undermining Obesity Problem Efforts

The data also revealed that the individuals who tend to misperceive their weights are actually 85 percent less likely to try to lose weight as compared to those who more accurately perceive their weight status. According to the author, the results are worrying especially amid the ongoing obesity problem in the United Kingdom. In fact, a 2017 report revealed that 63 percent of adults in the UK are actually obese.

The author of the study, Dr. Raya Muttarak, believes that it is imperative to identify those who are more prone to weight misperception and design more specific strategies that target their specific needs. For instance, as the results revealed that people with lower income and education are more prone to such misperceptions, targeting their needs such as access to health care and healthier foods should be addressed.

“The causes of socioeconomic inequalities in obesity are complex. Not only does access to health care services matter, but socioeconomic determinants related to living and working conditions and health literacy also substantially influence health and health behaviours,” said Dr. Muttarak.

The study is published in the journal Obesity.

Body Mass Index

It’s worth noting that weight status is often categorized using the body mass index (BMI), which helps identify whether a person is underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. A high BMI may indicate fatness, but it is not a diagnostic tool that assesses a person’s health.

To determine if a person’s BMI is a health risk, further diagnostic assessments and procedures must be done, which is why access to health care is one of the important factors in the efforts against the obesity problem.

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