Washington: Turns out, embracing and normalising 'plus-size' can have hidden health risks.
According to a study conducted by the University of East Anglia, the normalisation of 'plus-size' body shapes may be leading to an increasing number of people underestimating their weight - undermining efforts to tackle England's ever-growing obesity problem.
While attempts to reduce stigmatisation of larger body sizes - for example with the launch of plus-size clothing ranges - helped promote body positivity, the study highlighted an unintentional negative consequence that may prevent recognition of the health risks of being overweight.
The study by Raya Muttarak examined the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics associated with underestimation of weight status to reveal social inequalities in patterns of weight misperception.
Analysis of data from almost 23,460 people who are overweight or obese revealed that weight misperception has increased in England. Men and individuals with lower levels of education and income are more likely to underestimate their weight status and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.
Members of minority ethnic groups are also more likely to underestimate their weight than the white population; however, they are more likely to try to lose weight. Overall, those underestimating their weight are 85 percent less likely to try to lose weight compared with people who accurately identified their weight status.
The results showed that the number of overweight individuals who are misperceiving their weight has increased over time, from 48.4 percent to 57.9 percent in men and 24.5 percent to 30.6 percent in women between 1997 and 2015.
Similarly, among individuals classified as obese, the proportion of men misperceiving their weight in 2015 was almost double that of 1997 (12 percent vs 6.6 percent).
Muttarak said her findings have important implications for public health policies. "Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese," said Dr Muttarak. "While this type of body positive movement helps reduce stigmatisation of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences. The increase in weight misperception in England is alarming and possibly a result of this normalisation.
The study appears in the journal Obesity....