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: Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Working women have more influence at home, study says

Jun 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —When women who are married work, they wield more decision-making power over large household expenses—like buying a car, large appliance or furniture—according to a University of Colorado Boulder study.

Nearly 25 percent of overweight women misperceive body weight

Nov 22, 2010

A startling number of overweight and normal weight women of reproductive age inaccurately perceive their body weight, affecting their weight-related behaviors and making many vulnerable to cardiovascular and other obesity-related ...

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

9 hours ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

18 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

18 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments : 0