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Perceived weight status, overweight diagnosis, and weight control among US adults: the NHANES 2003-2008 Study.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the association between perceived overweight status and weight control, discrepancies between perceived and measured weight status, and opportunities for health care professionals (HCPs) to correct weight perception among US adults.

DESIGN: Population-based cross-sectional study.

SUBJECTS: In all, 16,720 non-pregnant adults from the 2003 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

RESULTS: Overall, 64% (73% women, 55% men) reported a desire to weigh less and 48% (57% women, 40% men) reported pursuing weight control. Weight control was positively associated with overweight perception (odds ratio (OR) women 3.74; 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.96, 4.73; OR men 2.82; 95% CI 2.11, 3.76) and an HCP diagnosis of overweight/obesity (OR women 2.22; 95% CI 1.69, 2.91; OR men 2.14; 95% CI 1.58, 2.91), independent of measured weight status. A large proportion of overweight individuals (23% women, 48% men) perceived themselves as having the right weight. Also, 74% of overweight and 29% of obese individuals never had an HCP diagnosis of overweight/obesity. Although the majority of overweight/obese individuals (74% women, 60% men) pursued at least one weight management strategy, fewer (39% women, 32% men) pursued both dietary change and physical activity. Among overweight/obese adults, those with an HCP diagnosis of overweight/obesity were more likely to diet (74 versus 52%), exercise (44 versus 34%), or pursue both (41 versus 30%, all P<0.01) than those who remained undiagnosed.

CONCLUSION: HCPs have unused opportunities to motivate their patients to control and possibly lose weight by correcting weight perceptions and offering counseling on healthy weight loss strategies.

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