Introduction: The increased prevalence and incidence rates of weight related problems have become a serious public health problem in many developing countries such as South Africa. Research has found that the statistical distribution of weight indicates a growing number of both underweight and overweight people in the South African population. One of the leading contributions to this staggering growth may be a misperception of one’s body weight. Many studies in South Africa have shown how many participants in their study were said to have a distorted perception of their weight and either underestimated or overestimated their actual body weight. There is growing interest in understanding the impact of body weight perceptions on an individual’s weight management strategies and eating patterns.
Objectives: In order to address perceived limitations of previous studies, this mini-dissertation examines associations between weight perceptions and weight management strategies, and seeks to add new direction to existing literature by exploring the association of weight related problems with depressive symptoms.
Methods: Information was obtained from 215 adult community members from both Johannesburg and Pretoria. Participants were requested to self-report their weight and height in order for their BMI to be calculated, to indicate their perceived weight category and to report whether they were trying to do anything about their weight. The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) was used to measure weight concerns, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) was administered to measure depressive symptoms.
Results: Most of the participants in the study had a distorted perception of their body weight and indicated that they were trying to do something about weight regardless of their actual weight status. About 52.6% of participants used a combination of approaches to lose weight. Dieting and using diet pills was found to be the most popular combination. Weight perception was found to be a predictor of depressive symptomology.
Conclusion: The results of this study are parallel to many other studies which have found an association between perceived weight and weight management strategies. Furthermore, this study discovered that weight perception, compared to actual weight, is a better predictor of the presence of depressive symptoms.