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Research In Health Disparities

College-age, African-American males' misperceptions about weight status, body size, and shape

Gross SM, Scott-Johnson PE, Browne DC.


This study examined actual and perceived weight status and body satisfaction of college-age African-American males. We predicted that, in general, males would be accurate about their weight status and satisfied with their body sizes and shapes. The study population was 123 males from a cross-sectional survey of 406 seniors who were scheduled to graduate in the spring 2003 from a historically Black university located in the mid-Atlantic region. These students were administered a survey on health and wellness that addressed a myriad of health concerns, most of which addressed weight, exercise and related areas. This paper presents analyses on males who were overweight or obese according to the National Institutes of Health guidelines (body mass index > or = 25 kg/m2). 50.4% were overweight or obese (OW/O). Of the OW/O males, 59.7% inaccurately classified their own weight status as normal and chose ideal weights (F(2,59)=3.8, P<.04) and healthy weights (F(2,59)=8.0, P<.001) that were heavier than males with accurate weight perceptions. Specifically, OW/O males desired larger upper torsos (chi2=7.2, df=1, P<.01) and larger body parts (ie, arms, legs, chest area; F(2,59)=11.0, P<.0001). Inaccurate, overweight males were less likely to agree that losing weight supported healthiness (chi2=26.5, df=4, P<.001) or that losing weight would make them more attractive (chi2=14.4, df=4, P<.01). These findings point to the need for effective interventions and strategies for helping those affected and those interested in overweight prevention to understand the role of weight perception, body satisfaction, and their influence on weight loss and lifestyle changes for health.

Keywords: Body Image, Weight Perception, Weight Status

Ethn Dis. 2005 Autumn;15(4 Suppl 5):S5-34-8.