If everyone around you were overweight, would you feel fat? As the obesity epidemic rolls on, many American’s are in denial about their weight and uninformed about their diets. Numerous recent studies have found a rampant lack of awareness, knowledge and perspective about our bodies and the foods we eat.
Popular culture presents the ideal with skinny supermodels and buff actors. Mental health experts express concern that such unattainable body images damage the self-esteem of overweight and obese people. But they seem to be protecting themselves by simply being in denial about their weight.
Universal state of denial
People of all ages and cultures consistently fudge on their body size in studies around the world. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently surveyed about 3,600 college students in Mexico to rate their body size. They were asked to classify themselves based on categories ranging from very underweight to obese.
Respondents with a normal, healthy weight correctly described themselves about 80 percent of the time. Even so, some of those students thought they were underweight. Fifty-eight percent of the overweight students believed they were at a normal weight. Among the obese students, 10 percent accurately described their condition, yet 75 percent said they were merely overweight.
Parents in denial
Other studies have found that parents are in denial about their children’s weight and that children and adolescents underestimated their weight as well. A Quebec study showed children silhouettes of body sizes and nearly 70 percent of the overweight and obese children chose a slimmer silhouette. Another study also found that 70 percent of parents with obese children selected a middle- or heavier-weight image when choosing a sketch to describe their child’s appearance.
Self-deception about diets and exercise
In a recent survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 11 percent said they were very overweight or obese, even though 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most respondents reported they get an hour of moderate exercise every day, and 31 percent described themselves as “very active.”
The Consumer Reports survey found that people are probably in denial about their diets too. Just one out of 10 respondents said their diet is unhealthy. Half of the respondents said they limit their daily intake of sugar, which requires a major commitment, given America’s food supply. The food supply issue also casts doubt on the finding that 60 percent said they eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
Stop fooling yourself
For a reality check, pay closer attention to the ingredients in your food. Do some research to learn how much is too much of the ingredients listed on food labels. For a more accurate perspective on body size, simply take a tape measure and find out how big your waist is. Women with a waist larger than 34 inches have excess body fat in a bad place. Trouble is on the way for men with a waist larger than 40 inches.
Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.