Friday, May 20, 2011

Obese is the new normal

Next week Claudia will talk about diet and nutrition, so here is a rather shocking survey I saw today to get you in the mood. Now surveys have all sorts of biases but if you use the same methodology year after year then you can track changes with a degree of accuracy.

According to a survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation, which has been conducted since 2006:
  • Only 8% of Americans consider themselves to be obese even though 35% actually are.
  • The percentage of people who say they don't exercise has risen from 37% to 43% just over the last year.
That finding is interesting for a couple of reasons, Smith Edge says. First, it represents an overall drop in the number of people who think of themselves as being overweight, and second, it shows that many people underestimate how bad their weight problem really is.

Only 57% of participants say they are concerned about their weight this year, down from 70% in 2010 and an all-time low for the survey.

Those who say they are trying to lose or maintain weight is also down, 69% in 2011 compared to 77% in 2010.

“This is a somewhat ominous trend,” says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.
Katz thinks the survey may be picking up signs of a “normalization” of larger body sizes. As friends and families also grow in girth, people feel OK by comparison.
“We might like to be OK at any size, but the simple fact of the matter is that we’re not,” he says. “We are getting diabetes, we are getting heart disease, we are getting preventable cancers, many of them having to do with our size, and that’s not OK. These things are happening in our children, and that’s not OK.”

You can calculate your BMI here if you are curious. 'Obese' is a medical term for those people with a BMI over 30 and is not a value judgement. Changing your weight is not rocket science, it's pretty simple biology. Unfortunately most people are looking for quick fixes and the quick fix is unlikely to last.

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