The researchers found that the odds of trying to lose weight was nearly 10 times higher among participants who overestimated their weight than among those who perceived their weight accurately. Those who underestimated their weight were the least likely to attempt to lose weight, according to the study.
Parental misperception of weight was not associated with attempts to lose weight among children and teens who were overweight or obese, the investigators found.
Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, takes a broader view of the problems of weight perception.
"Above all, this study highlights the perils of a societal preoccupation with weight, rather than a focus on health and the lifestyle factors that support it," he said.
Eating well and being active are important regardless of weight because they promote health, he said. "Weight is merely one among many measures that suggest something about overall health, albeit an important one," Katz said.
The high rate of dieting among children who overestimated their weight is of real concern, he noted. "This behavioral pattern suggests impaired body image perception and vulnerability to eating disorders," Katz said.
The more common problem of underestimating weight and its effect on lowering the likelihood of weight control efforts is also concerning, he added.
"These opposing problems are really two sides of the same coin -- the fixation on weight rather than health. In general, dieting is ill advised, both for overweight children and those misperceiving their weight as high when it isn't," Katz said.
Eating well and being active are recommended for both groups and all other children, he said. "We do need to raise awareness about the importance of childhood obesity, but we ne
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