Dear Dr Raya Muttarak,

Thank you for your response.

I disagree that the study "tries to explain the possible reasons behind the rise in weight misperception." I would say that the study investigated potential changes in perceptions of one's body weight across time. Full stop.

To be able to test anything about the possible reasons behind weight misperception, you would have need to directly test any proposed causal factors, such as exposure to body-positive media or purchasing "plus-size" fashion. Further, you would have needed to assess these relationships across time, or in the context of a randomised-controlled trial.

The fact that there is no evidence to rule out the hypothesis that body positivity contributes to a rise in weight misperception is no license to be able to conclude, or suggest, that it does. Not having any evidence to support something does not make it true.

It is also debatable whether underestimation of one's weight status should be as worrying as you suggest it is. Indeed, in Professor Stewart's commentary in Obesity, evidence is provided for the fact that identifying oneself as overweight or obese is, counterintuitively, associated with future weight gain. Professor Kersbergen also notes (see her Twitter feed) that you have misrepresented her review. Indeed, her review showed that people who perceive themselves as overweight are more likely to try to lose weight. However, as Professor Kersbergen notes, "what the author failed to mention is that this doesn't result in weight loss. In fact, perceiving yourself to be overweight is related to weight gain overtime."

I hope that you will be more careful in any future reporting of your research, and when communicating your findings to the media. As I mentioned, most people do not have the time or resources to access and read the scientific articles behind the news headlines. It is therefore our job as scholars - as well as the job of reviewers and journalists - to get the facts straight, and not spread false claims.


Dr Jessica Alleva

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