Abstract

The high prevalence of overweight and obesity has been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases in South Africa.Culturalbeliefs and perceptions of own body weight are believed to play a role for this high prevalence.This paper presents findingsof a comparative analysis of own perceived body weight and actual body weight/BMI. This was a community based crosssectionalquantitative study conducted among the nine ethnic groups in South Africa using a structured questionnaireandanthropometric measurements to calculate BMI.Descriptive statistics were used to assess the relationship between own bodyweight perception and actual weight/BMI. The sample consisted of 1050 adults (463 males and 587 females). Majority(n=711,67%), were in the 18-35 year age group and werethe most obese (BMI> 30kg/m2). Majority (n=562, 54%)were overweight andobese, regardless of their ethnicity, area of residence, and socioeconomic status.Most under-reported their body weight, of thosewho perceived themselves to have normal weight, (n=95, 59%) were overweight,(n=64, 40%) were obese,and (n=2, 1%) werenormal weight based on the BMI values. Also,these participants were unconcerned about their body weight, did not see theneed to lose weightasbody weight was hereditary. The implication of the underestimation of body weight, is of serious concern,especially in South Africa, given the high reported prevalence of overweight and obesity. It is, therefore, crucial to understandthe factors associated with these misperceptions if effective relevant public health interventions are to be designed.