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Body size preference and body weight perception among two migrant groups of non-Western origin

  • Mary Nicolaou (a1) (a2), Colleen Doak (a2), Rob van Dam (a2) (a3), Karen Hosper (a1), Jaap Seidell (a2) and Karien Stronks (a1)...

Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate body size preference, body weight perception and their relationship with actual weight in two migrant groups of non-Western origin, Turks and Moroccans; additionally, to study the association between body size preference and acculturation.

Design

Cross-sectional study.

Setting

Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Subjects and methods

Males and females (18–30 years) were randomly selected from the population registry (n 451); participants, or at least one of their parents, were born in Turkey or Morocco. Body size preference was assessed using seven silhouette drawings and body weight perception was assessed by asking participants’ opinion of own weight. Acculturation variables were generation status and two scale measures, cultural orientation and social contacts.

Results

Participants showed preference for a thin body size. The discrepancy between ideal and current size was significant in women but not men (P < 0·001). Perceived current body size was correlated with BMI (Spearman’s correlation coefficient 0·60, P < 0·001 (men) and 0·73, P < 0·001 (women)). Among overweight participants (BMI = 25·0–29·9 kg/m2), 63–82 % of men and 35 % of women perceived themselves as ‘average’. Paying attention to own body weight was associated with a discrepancy between ideal and current size among women and with perceiving oneself as ‘overweight’ among men. Body size preference was not significantly associated with the three acculturation variables.

Conclusion

We did not observe a preference for large body sizes in these two non-Western migrant groups. Similar to Western populations, most women wished to be thinner than they were. This was not the case among men, the majority of whom were also unaware of being overweight.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Email m.nicolaou@amc.uva.nl

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