(HealthDay News) — Cultural definitions of body size terms differ from a participant’s actual body size, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Elizabeth B. Lynch, PhD, and John Kane, from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, analyzed results from 69 African-American women who used Body Image Scale figures (overweight, obese and too fat) to select the one closest to their current body size.

Body size classifications of figures did not vary by participant weight status, the researchers found.

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Participants did not consider overweight figures too fat. For the majority (86%) of overweight women (BMI, 25 to 29.9) and 40% of obese women (BMI >30), the self-figure was not defined as overweight, obese or too fat. Even among participants with BMI ≥35, 65% did not classify their self-figure as obese and 29% did not classify their self-figure as overweight.

“The difference between cultural (folk) and medical definitions of body size terms may serve as a barrier to effective communication between patients and providers about health effects of excess adiposity,” the researchers wrote.


  1. Lynch EB, Kane J. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2014;46(5):412-417.