Two Worrisome Trends

Picture this: 745,000 subjects. If that is not an impressive number, then what is? Although these individuals are from 41 different countries, according to a study published in the journal Child and Adolescent Obesity, an awful lot of them have one thing in common:

More and more teens all over the world are underestimating their own body weight. [T]his trend could undermine, or render increasingly ineffective, ongoing public health interventions…

Researchers from the University of Luxembourg analyzed 16 years’ worth of data to learn how thoroughly the kids are fooling themselves. When young people underestimate their weight, lead author Doctor Anouk Geraets told the media, it is a matter of concern, because “they may make unhealthy lifestyle choices.” More accurately, they will continue to stick with the same unhealthy habits they have been practicing all along.

A BWP, or Discrepancy in body Weight Perception, goes one of two ways. A person has a self-image of either being skinnier than they are, or fatter. When someone believes their body to be less corpulent than it actually is, that self-deception can be dangerous. On the other hand, the belief that one is disgustingly fat can lead to horrific eating disorders that are astonishingly difficult to cure.

But apparently, there is less reason than ever before to worry about anorexia, because while people’s overestimation of their own weight status happens less often, their self-underestimation has ominously increased.

It’s a world-beater

This research was undertaken as part of a WHO collaborative study of International Health Behavior in School-Aged Children. The scholars reached several main findings, including, “Correct weight perception increased over time among girls but decreased among boys.” Males can more easily fool themselves into believing they are in good shape. This ties in with a problem experienced by the U.S. military establishment, which is still overwhelmingly male.

The Army, for instance, needs about 130,000 new recruits per year. Out of all the 17- to 24-year-olds in America, 11% are military-ineligible strictly due to being overweight. At the end of 2022, it was estimated that the next fiscal year would come up about 10,000 recruits short. The deficit actually reached nearly 15,000. The news gets worse:

However, the Department of Defense’s most recent figures show that an astonishing 77 percent of Americans of prime recruiting age would be ineligible for military service… Over three-quarters of American young people are ineligible due to some combination of factors, chief among them obesity.

The COVID pandemic did not help to rectify matters. Between early 2019 and mid-2021, in the Army alone, nearly 10,000 active-duty soldiers became obese. Before that crisis, about 18% of soldiers were obese, but by 2021 the percentage grew to 23%:

Overweight and obese troops are more likely to be injured… The military loses more than 650,000 workdays each year because of extra weight…

[T]hree-quarters of Americans aged 17 to 24 are not eligible for military service for several reasons, including extra weight. Being overweight is the biggest individual disqualifier…

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “OK with obesity? Fewer teens see themselves as overweight, survey reveals,”, 07/04/23
Source: “Addressing childhood obesity also supports US military readiness,”, 12/14/22
Source: “Pandemic pounds push 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers into obesity,”, 04/02/23
Image by Dept. of Defense/Public Domain

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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