Now that summer is here and the clothes have come off, I like to use my favorite nutrition assessment tool. It is the Stunkard Scale, a series of images of progressively heavier body types labeled 1 through 9, with 9 being the heaviest. It is mainly used in research to measure body image perception. Subjects are usually asked to choose the silhouette that most closely resembles how they look and how they would want to look.
Silhouette 4 corresponds to Body Mass Index (BMI) 23, the upper half of the healthy weight range. Women are most satisfied with Silhouette 3, whereas men prefer to be heavier. Silhouette 1 is too skinny to be healthy, and for some, Silhouette 2 is as well. Silhouette 5 rests on the border of the healthy to overweight range. Silhouettes 6 – 9 are too heavy and, as such, increase the risk for disease.
A Matter of Perception
People who live in societies that put a premium on thinness often see themselves as fat when they are thin. For instance, my beautiful, healthy daughter saw herself as a bit heavy while living as a nanny in the skinny minny Hamptons. On the other hand, according to a study from Quebec, children with heavy parents and peers are more likely to underestimate their weight than those with healthy-weight parents and friends. Underestimation of body size is more common among African-Americans, Hispanics, and heavy people who are active, although research shows that people with education and higher incomes are not more likely to perceive their weight more accurately than less educated people who make less money. People who lose weight commonly continue to see themselves as larger. Presently, I am Silhouette 3 or 4; however, I felt scrawny while visiting one of America’s fatter states.