Alexandria Journal of Medicine

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Weight status and perceived body size image in overweight and obese children 8–12 years old

DK Hussin, IH Mohammad, HA Al-Hamad, G Makboul, M Elshazly


Background: Young people’s perception of their weight status attracted much interest. With a better understanding of childhood body image problems, investigating prevention programs within schools is an important next step.
Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate body size perception in school children using verbal descriptor and BMI-calibrated visual-matching methods to examine associations between perceived and actual body size.
Methods: The subjects of this study were 106 school students (8–12 years old) from Khaldia region in Kuwait. Cross-sectional data on height, weight, and body image were collected in the classroom. Only overweight and obese children were assigned to participant with BMI percentile values for age and sex of >85 to <95 and BMI >95, respectively. Students selected a figure to represent their current images. Body image was measured using a body image tool with a sequence of seven body silhouettes progressing from very thin to overweight.

Results: The results revealed that both verbal and visual scales  overestimate overweight and underestimate obese ones. There is a predominance of underestimation rather than overestimation, especially
in girls. Visual-matching could be considered a more precise measure of body size perception than verbal, which could explain the greater sensitivity to sex differences. Parents in general and of girls specific underestimate the size of their children than boy’s parents. The perception of friends of body size was underestimated. The majority of obese and overweight attributed their conditions to eating more foods. Those trying to lose weight did this through both reduction of amount of food. Conclusions: These results indicated that children can estimate their body size with visual-matching and verbal-rating methods, but the degree of precision was more accurate by visual one. The verbal scale showed a tendency for children of all sizes to perceive themselves as normal or overweight.

AJOL African Journals Online