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Britons Would Not Describe Themselves as 'Obese': Study

Update Date: Nov 14, 2014 11:23 AM EST

A majority of obese people in Britain would not describe themselves as "obese", and many of them would not even describe themselves as "very overweight", according to a new study. 

In one of the first studies of its kind to examine British perceptions of obesity, fewer than 10 per cent of those who are clinically obese accept they have a serious weight problem. 

In a survey involving 2000 adults, two years ago, only 11 percent of obese women accurately acknowledged they were "obese", with majority of them describing themselves as "very overweight" or "just right". 

Among men, only seven percent correctly described themselves as being "obese" and another 16 percent as "very overweight". 

Researchers warned that as bigger sizes become the new "normal", people are less likely to recognize the health problems associated with their weight.

"It's a real worry that people don't recognize that their weight places them in the obese category, because it means they aren't aware they are at increased risk of a number of health problems including cancer. This is despite increased media coverage of obesity, and public health campaigns aimed at improving public awareness," said Professor Jane Wardle, co-author and director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at UCL. 

"The term 'obese' is often considered derogatory, which may be why so many people reject it. Mass media often illustrate obesity in a way that people find offensive, with pictures of bulging beer bellies and huge behinds, so people shy away from these images.

"But we also asked people whether they felt they were "very overweight" and the majority of those who were obese did not accept this term either. This is a real problem, as it means they are unlikely to identify with health messages on the subject of weight.

"We need to establish better ways for health professionals to address this sensitive subject and communicate with people whose health would benefit from positive lifestyle changes," he added.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open

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