The latest evidence to show that we are no longer aware of what a healthy weight looks like comes from researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago1. They asked African-American volunteers to look at a ‘body image scale’ made up of illustrations of different sizes of women, and to choose which drawings represented a healthy weight and which they thought were ‘too fat’. They were also asked to choose a drawing that was closest to their own body size.

The study found that the only drawings they thought of as being ‘too fat’ were the images representing ‘severely obese’ women. When it came to choosing the image most similar to themselves, many of them guessed incorrectly: 56 per cent of overweight women and 40 per cent of obese women chose images that were of women of a healthy weight. They perceived overweight to begin at a BMI of 35, not 25 as is the reality.

This small study reinforces concerns that, as people become more overweight, their perceptions of a healthy weight change. The researchers suggest that visual aids could be effective tools when talking to people about weight.

Published in Winter 2014 issue


  1. Lynch E et al. Body Size Perception Among African American Women, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014.