Sarah A. Mustillo, a Purdue University associate professor of sociology who studies obesity in childhood and adolescence, used data from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.
"We found that obese black and white teenage girls who transitioned out of obesity continued to see themselves as fat, despite changes in their relative body mass," Mustillo said in a statement. "Further, obese white girls had lower self-esteem than their normal-weight peers and their self-esteem remained flat even as they transitioned out of obesity."
The health and weight of more than 2,000 black and white girls was tracked for 10 years, starting at ages 9-10, as part of the national study. The girls were separated into one of three groups -- normal weight, transitioned out of obesity and chronically obese -- based on their body mass trends during the 10-year period.
There was a difference in self-esteem levels between races. Self-esteem for black girls transitioning from the obese to the normal range rebounded, but teens of both races continued to have negative body perceptions.
"The self-esteem for black girls was lower overall to begin with, but for those who moved into the normal weight range, self-esteem increased more than it did for any other group of girls," Mustillo said.
The findings were published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.