"Efforts to prevent childhood obesity should incorporate education for both children and parents regarding the proper identification and interpretation of actual body weight," said lead researcher Han-Yang Chen, from the department of quantitative health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.
"Interventions for appropriate weight loss should target children directly because one of the major driving forces to lose weight comes from the child's perception of their weight," he said.
Data for the study came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and included 2,613 kids between the ages of 8 and 15.
The study also found that healthy-weight kids who overestimated their weight were more likely to try shedding unnecessary pounds than the kids who accurately estimated their weight—which one expert fears could lead to potential eating disorders and body image issues.
"These opposing problems are really two sides of the same coin—the fixation on weight rather than health," Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, told HealthDay News. "In general, dieting is ill advised, both for overweight children and those misperceiving their weight as high when it isn't."
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Image of a child on a scale courtesy of Shutterstock