Most college students wish they were thinner, study shows

Nov 20, 2007

Most normal-weight women -- almost 90 percent in a Cornell study of 310 college students -- yearn to be thinner. Half of underweight women want to lose even more weight, or stay just the way they are, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, most overweight women don't want to be thin enough to achieve a healthy weight.

According to the study, one of the few to quantify the magnitude of body-weight dissatisfaction, which was published recently in the journal Eating Behaviors, most -- 78 percent -- of the overweight males surveyed also want to weigh less. But of this group, almost two-thirds -- 59 percent -- do not want to lose enough, so the body weight they desire would still keep them overweight.

More than 60 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese. And "because they don't meet the societal ideals propagated by the media and advertising for body weight, they are often targets of discrimination within educational, workplace and health-care settings and are stigmatized as lazy, lacking self-discipline and unmotivated," says Lori Neighbors, Ph.D. '07, who conducted the research with Jeffery Sobal, Cornell professor of nutritional sociology in Cornell's College of Human Ecology.

These factors have led many people to be dissatisfied with their bodies, says Neighbors, now an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

When the Cornell researchers assessed body weight versus the weight and shape individuals wish they had, they found that:

-- Men and women are similarly dissatisfied with their weight by an average of about 8 pounds, though women are much more dissatisfied with their bodies. Men have more mixed desires -- some want to lose weight while others want to gain weight.

-- Most of the normal-weight women who want to weigh less desire a weight still within the normal-weight range. However, 10 percent want to weigh what experts deem as officially underweight.

-- Half of the underweight women want to stay the same or lose weight. "The majority of underweight females, closer in body size to the thin cultural ideal, consider their body weight 'about right,'" said Sobal, even though experts have deemed these body weights unhealthful.

-- Overweight women want to weigh less. But about half want a body weight that would continue to make them overweight.

The findings suggest "that the idealized body weight and shape, especially among underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders, are not in accordance with population-based standards defining healthy body weight."

In a society in which excess weight is the norm, it's vital, say the researchers, to better understand body dissatisfaction and how this dissatisfaction impacts weight-management efforts.

"While both men and women express some degree of body dissatisfaction, a surprising proportion of people with less healthy body weights -- underweight females and overweight individuals of both genders -- do not idealize a body weight that would move them to a more healthy state," said Neighbors.

Source: Cornell University

Explore further: What to do with kidneys from older deceased donors?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Mining big data for Cupid's arrows

Feb 13, 2015

About a third of all people who were single at some point in the last 10 years have used dating websites, and a quarter of those have married or entered long-term relationships.

'Belty' offers tech solution to weighty problem

Jan 08, 2015

Wearable tech can sometimes cut right to the chase: that's the case with "Belty," a smart belt unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show which aims to help people lose weight.

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.