Dr. Marisa Rose of the Temple University School of Medicine studied the body image perceptions of 81 underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese women in the Philadelphia area.
The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that as their body mass index increased, two-thirds of the women said they still felt they were at an ideal body size.
"So the question for doctors then becomes, 'How can we effectively treat our overweight and obese patients, when they don't feel they're in harm's way?'" Rose said in a statement. "It stresses a need for culturally sensitive education for this population."
All participants were measured for height and weight and completed an anonymous survey. Each woman was asked which size she felt she was at currently and what her ideal size would be.
Most of the participants selected illustrations of women in the normal-to-overweight range and about 20 percent of the obese women selected an overweight or obese silhouette as their ideal body shape, the study said.