Men, Women and Perceived Body Image

  • All women think that they are fat.
  • Thanks to Hollywood and the media, all women are forced to compare themselves to unnatural and digitally enhanced celebrity bodies.
  • When a woman looks in the mirror, all she sees are flaws.
  • And yet, when a man looks in the mirror, he sees an Adonis that any woman should consider herself lucky to gaze upon.

At least that’s how it used to be.

According to the latest research, 23 percent of  America’s overweight females (aged 18-25) are becoming more ‘guy-like’ in their assessment of their bodies and are underestimating their level of body-fat.

As a result, they are more likely to live a pro-obesity lifestyle and are more vulnerable to cardiovascular and other -obesity-related diseases.

The Study

Researchers found that:

  • 23% of overweight and 16% of normal-weight women were misperceivers.
  • Overweight and obese Hispanic and African American women are significantly more likely than white women to misjudge their weight, categorizing themselves as normal. (28% vs 15%)
  • Normal-weight African-American women were less likely than whites to consider themselves overweight (7% vs 16%)
  • Overweight women who had at least some college education (14% vs 29%) and used the Internet (18%vs 28%) were less likely to misperceive their body weight.
  • Normal-weight misperceivers were more likely to report healthy and unhealthy weight-reduction behaviors compared with normal-weight actual perceivers – (translation – they were more likely to diet, exercise, pop pills, laxative, induce vomiting, skip meals, smoke more cigarettes and avoid carbs)
  • Opposite scenarios were observed for overweight misperceivers – (translation – they were less likely to diet, exercise, pop pills, laxative, induce vomiting, skip meals, smoke more cigarettes and avoid carbs)

This is the first study to look at women’s weight-related behaviors associated with their self-perception of body-weight.

And according to study author, Dr. Mahbubur Rahman, “What we found reflects the ‘fattening’ of America.”  “As obesity numbers climb, many women identify overweight as normal, not based on the scale but on how they view themselves.”

So, what does all of this mean?

Lead author, Dr. Abbey Berenson believes that “weight misperception is a threat to the success of obesity prevention programs.”  “Overweight individuals who do not recognize that they are overweight are far less likely to eat healthfully and exercise. These patients are at risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and other serious problems.”

She also recommends that clinicians calculate patients’ BMI at each visit as part of their vital signs, routinely screen for misperceptions of body weight and inquire about unhealthy weight-related behaviors so that they can counsel patients appropriately.

“This is especially important for reproductive-age women because they are more likely to be obese than similarly aged men, often because they’ve had at least one child and have not lost pregnancy weight and find that their schedules make it difficult to exercise and eat healthfully.”

Or, in layman’s terms:

  • Stop staring at yourself in the mirror
  • Stop judging yourself against photo-shopped magazine models
  • Eat real food
  • Exercise daily
  • Tell your man to put down the chips,  get his fat ass off the couch and to go and exercise with you




Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

2 thoughts on “Men, Women and Perceived Body Image

  • November 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    LOVE the article, but wow, whoever found that picture to go with it…way too funny :) love it x2 :)


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