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Paige Waehner

Vote in This Week's Poll: Are Americans in denial about their weight?

By October 18, 2010

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Have you ever asked yourself: Am I overweight? That may seem like a silly question, but a recent survey by Harris Interactive/HealthDay shows that some people may be in denial about their weight.

The survey tracked 2,418 adults and had them enter their height and weight as part of the poll. From this information, the pollsters calculated their BMI and asked the respondents a series of questions about their weight. Here's what they found:

  • 30% of overweight respondents thought they were normal (a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight)
  • 70% of obese respondents thought they were overweight (a BMI over 30 is considered obese)
  • 39% of morbidly obese respondents also thought they were overweight and not obese (a BMI over 40 is considered morbidly obese)
  • Most respondents thought it was lack of exercise that contributed the most to their weight problems, rather than diet
  • Respondents thought that weight loss surgery was the best remedy for weight loss followed by prescription drugs and supplements

Now, there were only about 2500 respondents, a small portion of the American population, and BMI calculations certainly aren't perfect for every person but, putting that aside for a moment, what do you think about these findings? Are most people simply unaware of how to calculate BMI or what those numbers actually mean? Or is it, as some experts suggest, the fact that people are surrounded by overweight or obese people and think that's the norm? Does this survey reflect what most Americans really think? Vote in this week's poll and then leave a comment and tell us what you think.

October 18, 2010 at 9:10 am
(1) Al says:

I think overweight is a catch-all phrase. One who is obese or morbidly obese is overweight too. So, people aren’t incorrect in saying that. They are using technical definitions with a name that is a regular English word. I would think that the answers stem from confusion as much as anything else. An exercise of this sort really needs to provide definitions and characteristics of each category for people to be able to properly classify themselves according to technical definitions. (The classification is actually formula-based but providing characteristics of categories would work – possibly better in understanding than provision of a formula).

October 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm
(2) scout09 says:

You could simplify and ask if your waist is more than 35 inches.

I truly do believe that there are areas in the U.S. where being overweight and/or obese is so prevalent that it is the new normal. In these instances, telling people that they should embrace their bodies or accept who they are is very damaging.

Exercise can only do so much – diet is really the biggest factor, in my opinion. I see it at the grocery store, people anooyed with the produce codes being looked up, while their carts are filled with sugary sodas and convenience foods. Everyone needs to learn to shop in the outer aisles, cook so that you have leftovers and can create your own “fast foods” that are healthy. I cook tons of food on Fridays, so I don’t have to cook on the weekends. It isn’t difficult to do, you just have to be committed.

October 18, 2010 at 1:20 pm
(3) scout09 says:

Unrelated, but equally alarming is the celebrity “trainers” who frustrate and cause injury to people who would otherwise be on their toward making exercise part of their lifestyles:


“I have an internationally respected fitness certification and 17 years’ experience with free weights, yet I lack the audacity to pretend I am qualified to teach kettle bells.

Jillian Michaels, on the other hand, is lacking in shame. At least that’s what I thought until I realized Michaels is not actually a real fitness trainer — she’s an actress playing the role of fitness trainer on TV and in a line of popular DVDs.”


October 19, 2010 at 12:14 pm
(4) crow says:

It does amaze me that most people don’t know they are FAT!
Otherwise why are their shopping carts full of junk food?
Why do they wear clothes too small?
Why do they eat too much?
Are Americans just too dumb to look at themselves and their children and think, duh, we are fat.
Eat right, exercise, very easy to be at a healthy weight.

October 20, 2010 at 11:14 am
(5) Jane says:

Now that I’ve lost 50 lb I look back at the old pictures of me and I can honestly say that I didn’t see in the mirror back then what I see in the pictures now. I knew in my head that I was obese – the numbers told me so, but I just couldn’t see it. Denial is such a formidable enemy. I’m shocked to read that most people don’t know that our food intake is the primary thing making us fat, and that SURGERY rates higher than diet as a weight-loss strategy!!! When I started looking at and eating correct portion sizes, at first I thought the portions were ridiculous, but now I can’t even begin to eat the amount I used to. Restaurants are RIDICULOUS in their portion sizes. No wonder we’re fat – we’re spoiled rotten!

October 20, 2010 at 3:03 pm
(6) amelia says:

jane’s comment above is similar to what i feel. i was always one of the bigger girls growing up, and i was okay with that. my mom was always a bigger person, despite being athletic and loving vegetables, and she taught me to love myself for who i am. i am glad she did that, but now that my body is considerably smaller than it used to be, i can’t believe how big i was. i knew i was chubby, i was not obese, but i’m amazed that i saw myself so differently back then. there were days when i felt thinner, days when i felt fatter – and that is the same even now. there’s nothing wrong with being big if you’re healthy, though. it isn’t all about being thin: you can be thin and unhealthy. i’ve known plenty of junk food lovers who never gain a pound. my mom and i do like to watch “the biggest loser,” and last night we were disgusted by the average sized portion of lasagna that contains 800 calories! remembering all of those double servings of lasagna – plus whatever else, garlic bread or pasta – we used to eat. i can’t believe we ever ate like that! i can’t believe people can eat like that!

October 20, 2010 at 11:06 pm
(7) svrocket says:

Of course the statistic “mean” says the most common american height/weight combos indicate the average person is overweight. For a bit of voyeuristic fun, just go to plentyoffish.com, set your zipcode & the filter to “average” body type, and be blown away by how many people classify themselves as “average” – they are clearly obese.

October 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm
(8) karen says:

I feel thin people are becoming more extinct.
Walking to work in the city I see more overweight people then thin.
In the future, I see museums showing what an actual thin person use to look like.
Except, you wouldn’t see any fashion models in the museums. They will be called the roaches that once roamed the earth.

April 17, 2012 at 12:31 pm
(9) Renata says:

I am 44, 5’9″ and as an ex dancer have always weighed 125 pounds.
Now I am closer to 150 pounds, many people tell me I look good,.
But I feel like I have extra weight (especially in the middle when I bend)
on me and I feel bulky and big for me.
So I feel fat.

I also know I could eat better than I do, particularly less sugar!

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