The ‘body positivity’ movement is making people blind to their weight problems

The normalisation of ‘plus-size’ body shapes is causing people to underestimate their weight, according to new research by the University of East Anglia.

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 and consequently less likely to try to lose weight.

Those underestimating their weight are 85 per cent less likely to try to lose weight compared with people who accurately identified their weight status.

The research shows that the number of overweight people who are misperceiving their weight has increased over time, from 48.4 per cent to 57.9 per cent in men and 24.5 per cent to 30.6 per cent in women between 1997 and 2015.

Dr. Muttarak, the study’s lead author, said: ‘Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese. 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.’

‘Likewise, the higher prevalence of being overweight and obesity among individuals with lower levels of education and income may contribute to visual normalisation, that is, more regular visual exposure to people with excess weight than their counterparts with higher socioeconomic status have.’

‘To achieve effective public health intervention programmes, it is therefore vital to prioritise inequalities in overweight- and obesity-related risks. Identifying those prone to misperceiving their weight can help in designing obesity-prevention strategies targeting the specific needs of different groups.’

The study has been published in the journal Obesity.


  • WeeWifie

    Why does everyone have to look the same. It’s what happened to shops, music, pubs. Everything is becoming “boring” because there is no true diversity.

    • Essell

      Cheap mass production happened.

  • Essell

    the NHS is spending a great deal on supersize beds =, chairs and operating tables.
    They should keep the original sizes. I’m sure that being unable to sit down in a waiting room might make fat people realise just how their weight has increased. Having to buy two seats on a plane or bus might also have a positive effect.

  • HelicobacterP

    This is obvious. Statistically, most people in the UK are too fat. That means that it has become the norm. However, the article makes the interesting point that these people are being exploited by the retail market and certain tabloids who give fat people profile and write about how they are proud to be who they are.