Is Military Service a Factor in Weight Perceptions & Weight Loss Attempts?

Research Paper Title

Weight Perceptions and Weight Loss Attempts: Military Service Matters.


People who do not perceive themselves as overweight or obese are less likely to use weight loss treatments.

However, little is known about weight perceptions and their association with weight loss attempts among people who have served in the military.

They represent a special population with regard to weight perceptions as military personnel must meet strict weight standards to remain in military service.


Using data from the US-based 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the researchers fit logistic regression models to determine whether people with overweight or obesity were:

  1. More or less likely to underestimate their weight if they reported military service; and
  2. Less likely to attempt weight loss if they underestimated their weight (stratifying by military status).

Estimates were adjusted for sociodemographic factors, including objective weight class, gender, age, race/ethnicity, income ratio, comorbidities, and education.


Among 6,776 participants, those reporting military service had higher odds of underestimating their weight compared to those not reporting military service [OR (odds ratio): 1.44; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.15, 1.79].

Underestimating weight was associated with lower odds of attempting weight loss among those reporting military service (OR: 0.20; CI: 0.11, 0.36) and those not reporting military service (OR: 0.27; CI: 0.22, 0.34).


This study offers the new finding that underestimating weight is more likely among people reporting military service compared to those not reporting military service.

Findings are consistent with past work demonstrating that underestimating weight is associated with a lower likelihood of pursuing weight loss.

To combat weight misperceptions, clinicians may need to spend additional time discussing weight-related perceptions and beliefs with patients.

The present findings suggest such conversations may be especially important for people reporting military service.

Future research should be designed to understand the effects of correcting weight misperceptions.

This work would advance the science of weight management and offer ways to increase weight loss treatment engagement, prevent chronic conditions, and improve health outcomes, especially among people reporting military service.


Breland, J.Y., Patel, M.L., Wong, J.J. & Hoggatt, K.J. (2020) Weight Perceptions and Weight Loss Attempts: Military Service Matters. Military Medicine. 185(3-4), pp.e397-e402. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usz413.


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