A systematic review of the relationship between weight status perceptions and weight loss attempts, strategies, behaviours and outcomes

Type Article

Journal Article


A. Haynes; I. Kersbergen; A. Sutin; M. Daly; E. Robinson

Year of publication



Obes Rev








It is commonly assumed that a person identifying that they are 'overweight' is an important prerequisite to successful weight management. However, there has been no systematic evaluation of evidence supporting this proposition. The aim of the present research was to systematically review evidence on the relationship between perceived overweight and (i) weight loss attempts, (ii) weight control strategies (healthy and unhealthy), (iii) weight-related behaviours (physical activity and eating habits), (iv) disordered eating and (v) weight change. We synthesized evidence from 78 eligible studies and evaluated evidence linking perceived overweight with outcome variables separately according to the gender, age and objective weight status of study participants. Results indicated that perceived overweight was associated with an increased likelihood of attempting weight loss and with healthy and unhealthy weight control strategies in some participant groups. However, perceived overweight was not reliably associated with physical activity or healthy eating and was associated with greater disordered eating in some groups. Rather than being associated with improved weight management, there was consistent evidence that perceived overweight was predictive of increased weight gain over time. Individuals who perceive their weight status as overweight are more likely to report attempting weight loss but over time gain more weight.