New study shows many overweight or obese kids think they're normal, or does it?
Many news outlets picked up this study recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The conclusions that the media reported included:
—About 30 per cent mis-perceived their weight status, and a large majority were heavier kids who thought they were normal weight.
—Nearly half of obese boys and more than a third of obese girls consider themselves to be about the right weight.
—About 34 per cent of black and Mexican-American kids mis-perceived how heavy they were. About 28 per cent of white kids did.
—This kind of misconception was more common among children in lower-income families than those in households with more money.
The study's findings that a surprisingly high percentage of children (aged 8-15) mis-perceived their weight status is troubling and articles raised questions of the role of cultural, educational, or family environment on the perceptions. However, the study's definitions of weight status were based on BMI percentiles taken from CDC growth chart studies. I don't know enough about the correlation between BMI and bodyfat in children to say they were right or wrong to do so but my own experiences would suggest that it should've at least warranted an explanation for why BMI was the correct measure (not bodyfat %).
Based on the CDC growth chart for Body mass index-for-age percentiles, Boys 2-20 years, the thresholds the study used for 'overweight' and 'obese' (85th to 95th percentile and over 95th percentile, respectively) ranged between 17.7-20, 20+ for 8 yr olds and 23.5-26.7, 26.7+ for 15 yr olds.
|BMI index for age percentiles, Boys 2-20 yrs old|
Now, in my case, I was definitely overweight by any subjective measure when I was 13. I knew this because my classmates had bestowed upon me the nickname, "pillsbury doughboy", shortened to "doughboy" or "doughie". It wasn't an affectionate nickname, it was meant to tease or belittle. At the same time, I didn't realize that I was fat. I played sports and was neither the fastest nor the slowest nor was I ever the last person picked. This part of my life does agree with the identification of the mis-perception of weight status. I mean, I had to wear "husky" sized Toughskins but I didn't identify that with being fat.
|13 yrs old, overweight but felt like I was normal|
Cue forward to age 17 and I had grown out of my babyfat. I had also been working out for a couple of years but I didn't look anything but 'normal'. By that time I was 5'9" 180 lbs. Two years earlier, at age 15, I was also 5'9" and 160 pounds. My BMI at age 15 was 23.6 and my BMI at age 17 was 26.6. Based on the CDC BMI index and the study's definitions of "overweight", I was overweight at age 15 and at age 17. By this time, however, I would've certainly considered myself to be "normal".
|age 17, 5'9" 180 lbs, BMI 26.6, "overweight"|
According to the study, over 80% of boys between 8-15 yrs of age that were "overweight" by their BMI criteria got their 'status' wrong. The vast majority of the 80+% felt they were "normal". I wonder how many situations like mine were reflected in the data?