We Are Deluded About Our Own Obesity

The Consumer Reports National Research Center recently surveyed a national sample of 1,234 U.S. adults about their eating habits and how they maintained a healthy diet. The results? We think we’re eating healthier than we are, and we’re in denial about our own obesity.

We found that Americans are making an effort to practice good nutrition and weight control, with 90 percent describing their diet as “somewhat,” “very,” or “extremely” healthy. But they have a tendency to give themselves more credit than they perhaps deserve. They drink more sweetened beverages than they should, for example, and sometimes undercut their own efforts at weight control by not limiting their intake of sweets and fats.

More worrisome:

Overall, 50 percent said they were overweight or obese, compared with about six in 10 who actually were. About one in three people who said they were at a healthy weight actually had BMIs in the overweight range. And less than 1 in 10 made an error in the other direction–they said they were overweight or obese when their BMIs suggested they were not.

You can see the full article on our sister-website, Consumer Reports Health.

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  1. Bativac says:

    This sounds about right. My wife is a personal trainer and the majority of her clients can’t understand why they’re overweight. They insist they practice healthy eating habits, get plenty of exercise, etc… Meanwhile my wife catches them in the company cafe getting fried fish, chocolate cake, and a large Coke and insisting they are “treating themselves.”

    Sure, but three times in the same week??

    • Ocyrus says:

      I don’t even know where to start.
      As a trainer, my toughest obstacle has always been getting clients to open their eyes and take responsibility for their own health and fitness.

      • c!tizen says:

        but wouldn’t that put you out of business?

      • tooluser says:

        If you don’t know where to start, I would petition that you have no business being a professional trainer.

        But I would guess that was just a figure of speech.

        So reveal the secret of weight loss. Here, now, and forever more. It’s so simple isn’t it? Easy, yes? What is the secret? Clearly you know but are unwilling to share.

        • MsEllenT says:

          Judging from your other replies in this thread … you sound fat.

        • bnelson333 says:

          Actually, it is easy. Weight loss is a math problem, nothing more.

          Your body requires X calories per day to function. If you eat X calories per day, you will neither gain nor lose weight. If you eat more than X, you will gain. If you eat less than X, you will lose.

          Eat 500 less than X per day, every day, and you will lose 1 lb per week. Eat 1000 less than X, every day, and you will lose 2 lbs per week. (1 lb = 3500 cals, so 500 x 7 days = 3500 = 1 lb, double that for 2).

          All you have to do is determine your personal X, this can be done starting with the BMR calculation and then a little trial and error. Once you know what it is, stick to it every day and you will be rewarded.

          And remember, exercise increases your X. If normally your X is 2000 and you eat 500 less than it every day (1500) to target 1 lb/week loss. On a day you exercise and burn off an additional 500 calories above and beyond your normal daily routine, your X+Exercise is actually 2500. If you still want to target 1 lb/week, you need to eat 2000 that day to make up for the exercise, not the original 1500.

          • Firethorn says:

            Indeed, weight loss is a math problem. However, getting people to actually DO the math and FOLLOW the requirements is a psychological trick that I think would indeed justify an excellent salary to any personal trainer or dietician who can get people to do it on a consistent basis.

    • Kate says:

      How depressing. I hardly ever eat fried foods and I’m obese. I’m not sure why people think that fat people get that way eating like that. IME I see young dudes with gnarly bodies eating total crap in huge amounts and the fat ladies eating the lean cusines at lunch in the break room. My husband is on the thin side. He doesn’t eat until dinner and then he eats huge amounts. He inhales potato chips and puts away most of the casseroles I make. He doesn’t exercise regularly at all except when he does yard work on the weekends during the nice days.

      • tungstencoil says:

        I wish I could find the references online, but Dr. Dean Edell (he’s a physician who is also a radio personality) has it in his books: there are studies to show a trend for perpetually lean people to eat MORE than perpetually overweight people.

        Genetics and metabolism have a lot to do with it. Sure, willpower can make a fat person consume fewer calories and work out more to maintain a slimmer weight. But the idea that thin person A is consuming less calories than fat person B is typically incorrect (statistically, not necessarily case-by-case).

        It isn’t that genetics make you fat (or thin) and you can’t do anything about it. Genetics make your body more or less efficient at storing excess calories.

        • bnelson333 says:

          This.

          Having been a “larger” person the majority of my life, I know all too well the quagmire of thinking eating too much got me into this, I have to keep eating less and less. It doesn’t work, and only destroys your metabolism. Which leads to gaining MORE fat.

          Eating enough, and more often (6-7 times a day) is entirely the reason I lost 65 lbs. In fact I think I was eating more while losing weight than I would normally have eaten as an obese person. It’s counter-intuitive, but it works.

          • FaustianSlip says:

            Out of curiosity, what kind of stuff were you eating?

            I lost about forty pounds last year and kept it off, partially through diet and partially through a job that got me up and moving more (walking up and down a train and throwing railroad switches will keep you pretty trim if you don’t eat tons of crap). I’m now in a different job that’s much more sedentary, and while I do taekwondo a few times a week and try to keep better track of what I’m eating and haven’t gained any weight, I haven’t lost any, either. I seem to keep gaining and losing the same five pounds, which is irritating. Of course, the fact that my current job has me stressed out and wanting to eat as a result of that probably isn’t helping me any. Maybe it’s just as simple as packing a baggie of carrots and celery sticks every day and eating them during downtime.

            Congrats on the weight loss, BTW- 65 pounds is a lot to lose.

            • bnelson333 says:

              Thanks. Actually, what I ate was nothing special, pretty much whatever I felt like. It doesn’t matter what you eat, only how much, and if you can control the quantity, the weight will come off. I don’t believe in depriving myself of anything, because that only makes me rebel and eat way too much. If I want nachos, I eat nachos, I just eat a reasonable amount of nachos, feel satisfied, and move on (but carefully making sure it fits into my calorie goal for the day).

              • OutPastPluto says:

                > Actually, what I ate was nothing special, pretty much whatever I felt like.

                Yes. The See-Food diet. Not all “food” is the same. Much of it is very high density in terms of energy. Different people also respond differently to different foods. Some habits are prone to lead you into a bad place regardless of your genetics. Some things just aren’t appropriate for you or anybody.

                This “helpless” crap is why everyone is getting so fat.

                It’s amazing the sort of crazy stuff you see on dieting forums that people think is normal or acceptable.

        • tooluser says:

          Yup. Some peoples’ eat meters are broken. It is really, truly harder for some folks to stay slim. Ask the next skinny person what they would do if they were hungry. Their answer will be that they would eat something. The fat person would likely answer that they would try to put it off, but would eventually eat something. We’re all pretty much alike in that respect.

          http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/www/subsection1_2_3_0_7.html#SECTION0230700000000000000

          • ccooney says:

            If you’re hungry, go eat. I don’t care if you’re fat or not. The thing I found (about myself) was that drinking some water helped a lot, but eating the right sort of thing would make me not hungry sooner, so I ate that. If you’re starving for fat, eating a muffin won’t do a damn thing.

            Also, exercise and build some muscle mass so you can eat without getting fat. I suspect a lof of fat people are way undermuscled.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          My husband eats like it’s going out of style, and at a lightly-built 6′ tall he has only once weighed over 150 pounds. He eats easily twice what I do in a day, and I outweigh him by a good ten pounds despite being several inches shorter.

      • 12345678nine says:

        Do you get regular exercise?
        I feel like I eat “healthy” so I am with the majority in that survey because I know that it is not really very healthy the things that I eat. BUT I jog at least 3 times a week, or throw a spin class in there. And I walk probably a total of 15 miles a week on breaks and ion the morning and such
        So when I eat a veggie pizza for dinner, and a egg and cheese muffin for breakfast, it works, because it is providing me carbs and protein for my day, and I am staying active.

        • Tallanvor says:

          Regular exercise is no guarantee for controlling your weight. The only way to to lose weight is to consume significantly fewer calories than you actually need. And exercise, unfortunately, increases your appetite even more than it otherwise would be, making it harder to eat less.

          After losing around 85 pounds, I managed to see about 5 of those pounds come back despite running an average of 8.5 miles 6 days a week for the past 3 months or so. –In 2010 I had a total of 301 workouts. –I define a workout as an hour or more of vigorous exercise.

          This year I’m trying to do 3 things: eat healthier, focus less on cardio and more on strength training, and lose another 20-25 pounds.

          • ccooney says:

            So you lost a net of 80 lbs – that’s pretty nice. The 5 lbs you got back may have been muscle, which is even better. I’ll bet you feel better too. I’d focus on improving your aerobic capacity and shrinking your waist more than actual weight – you can gain weight and lose inches off your waist of you play things right.

    • tooluser says:

      Why is your wife hanging out in company cafeterias all week, monitoring her clients’ food intake? Do they pay her for that? Weird.

      • Powerlurker says:

        Well, most people eat lunch at the same time during the day and many companies have on premises gyms with personal trainers, so I would assume that his wife is a personal trainer at a company gym and would thus see the people she trains during their shared lunch hour.

      • 12345678nine says:

        Why would YOU jump to the assumption that his wife goes into the cafetaria for the purpose of “monitoring” her client’s food intake?
        That’s weird.

  2. framitz says:

    At 6 feet and 155 pounds if I get any less obese I’ll blow away.

  3. Foot_Note says:

    Fat Cat says “enough donuts”!

  4. Robofish says:

    Interesting. I probably fit in the somewhat. The future wife and I don’t eat out that much. Except maybe if friends are in town or there is a birthday. But even still it’s getting harder to make healthy choices with everything being so processed.

    • Mom says:

      Bingo. A lot of people think they’re eating healthy, but they either eat out, or eat from a box at least half the time. They’re deluding themselves, because it would take almost inhuman abilities to make healthy choices from available processed foods and restaurant fare.

      People who are really eating healthy tend to cook.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        It’s about moderation. People think healthy foods have to be bland, tasteless vegetables, but you can eat pretty much anything in a healthier way. No one is saying you can’t have steak, but you shouldn’t have it every week and you shouldn’t have a pound of it each meal. You can eat tacos, but unless you love the tortilla itself, only eat what’s in it and you can save 300 calories.

  5. Mulva says:

    When people think french fries count as veggies, you can understand why the poll came out the way it did.

    • Thebestdudeeverr says:

      wait… they aren’t?

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      french fries? oh, it gets worse
      may i call your attention to a chronic menu problem in my part of the country
      i’ll use this menu as an example, but i’ve seen it at dozens of restaurants
      please check out the vegetable offerings

      http://www.knightdaleseafoodandbbq.com/menu_1.html#anchor_94

      • caradrake says:

        I’m always irritated when I see “applesauce” or “fried apples” under the vegetables section. Some of those aren’t bad (turnip greens, string beans, etc) but grains and fruits != vegetables. They should rename that to “side dishes.”

        That said, their menu looks very tasty. I need to find a good southern BBQ place down here. :(

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        They misspelled ‘beets’. That annoys me almost as much as the overwhelming likelihood that almost all of the actual vegetable-based dishes listed there will contain a metric assload of pork.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          just being in the restaurant you’re practically inhaling pork. i’m often surprised not to find pork chunks in the stewed apples

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Oh man, Knightdale Seafood and BBQ. I never ate there before they moved across the street, but I remember driving past their old building and seeing the lines stretching out the door every time … which is why we never went.

        The offerings at McLean’s over in Zebulon were much the same as those though, and every order came with a mini biscuits or hushpuppies.

    • Laura Northrup says:

      It’s not French fries that are vegetables. It’s the ketchup. Duh.

  6. Beave says:

    BMI is a complete joke. I’m not saying Americans aren’t fat, but those charts tell me that anything over 175lb is overweight for me, and that’s the very high end of the range for healthy. I’m a 5’11” male with a pretty wide bone structure. I ran track in college, and my weight was never below 170lbs. I was completely healthy, probably thin for my frame, with a six-pack, but apparently I was borderline overweight.

    • photoguy622 says:

      Well now we all know those BMI charts don’t account for muscular build, it’s just to be used as a quick and dirty reference point. If I continue to build muscle at the gym I will be in the overweight range shortly myself.

    • SonarTech52 says:

      I agree, Im 6’2” and I was supposed to be around 195 or something. I’ve always weighed 210 -220 lbs. I’ve always had to get “taped” in the military to make sure my neck and waist were in standards.. Im very thick boned, and very sturdy (never broken any bones when i probably should have.) Luckily I have a 18 inch neck, and a 54” chest so I’ve always passed.

    • nobomojo says:

      you’re right. I believe BMI numbers were orig. supposed to be used for looking at whole groups of people of populations, not individuals. “BMI was explicitly cited by Keys as being appropriate for population studies, and inappropriate for individual diagnosis. Nevertheless, due to its simplicity, it came to be widely used for individual diagnosis, despite its inappropriateness.” (wiki). plus they don’t take into account a muscular build or anything deviating from average. I will not listen to any medical professionals who tout BMI as a way to measure what one “should” weigh. personally speaking, at my skinnest years in high school, my BMI numbers indicated that i was “overweight” but in fact if I had lost any more weight, I would have looked like a skeleton. it’s just a cop out if you ask me.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        There is a method of measuring your neck that is supposed to be widely more accurate for the individual.

      • MrEvil says:

        The formula for BMI was developed for reasons not having a goddamn thing to do with health. the BMI formula was developed for analyses of social classes in a population. Back in the 19th century body mass correlated with social status. The higher your BMI, the higher class you were.

        BMI as it is used now is a load of bullshit foisted on the public by the diet and exercise industry to sell more fad diets and more shit exercise equipment. Also this supposed epidemic is actually the result of the WHO changing the numbers of what makes a person Obese vs overweight. When you lower the bar of course more people are going to be obese.

        I’m not denying the fact that we have more overweight people around…HOWEVER the cause of this is the proliferation of cheap food coupled with the elimination of labor intensive jobs in this country. If the Chinese had the same glut of food and the same mostly sedentary jobs they’d be just as fat as we are. This adjustment in society has outpaced our bodies’ ability to adapt. Not only that you have high stress jobs with low physical exertion, unlike early man that had high stress day jobs with high amounts of physical exertion.

      • Archergal says:

        And then there are people like me who have a “normal” BMI (albeit at the top of the range), but I’m still carrying a lot of fat. A LOT. And my husband, who is “overweight” according to his BMI, is very nicely shaped, TYVM.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      Yes, thank you. My BMI says I’m healthy, but I have plenty of friends who have great, healthy-sized bodies for whom BMI calls overweight. It’s bizarre how otherwise educated people (scientists or health professionals) still cling to this measurement!

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      complete agreement. in this photo i was 5′ 3″, 113 pounds. BMI calculators says that would be a BMI of 20, a perfectly healthy weight
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/catastrophegirl/2615352600/

      when in fact i had lost 35 pounds in a month and i was in diabetic ketoacidosis, was diagnosed with adult onset type 1 diabetes 48 hours after i took this picture. i had lost a great deal of muscle mass and had pretty much 0 body fat. 5 different doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong and some of them even though i was ‘normal’ weight based on the numbers alone instead of just LOOKING at me.
      it took an ER orderly to figure out what was wrong

      numbers mean nothing when it comes to individuals

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I agree that that means nothing because I’m 5’3 and when I weighed 110 pounds, the only thing I had lost was weight. I wasn’t eating any healthier (college student diet) but because I walked so much, that kept off the weight. Your weight doesn’t matter if all you’re managing to do is take off the pounds by working off the cheeseburgers.

      • LadyTL says:

        I get that all the time. I even have a special note in my medical file at Planned Parenthood because I won’t be a good little sheep and let them lecture me for an hour about my supposedly “deadly” health. Never mind I have my blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and other tests done on a regular basis and they always come out great.

      • 12345678nine says:

        So your doctors didn’t think anything could be wrong with you because you were at a “healthy” weight?
        Um I am at a perfect weight but I could still have health problem. I don’t think BMI was the problem there…

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          oh no, i was “diagnosed” with other things that were actually symptoms of the diabetes because when i mentioned the weight loss i was told “good for you” and it wasn’t treated as a symptom.
          it turns out i DO have sjogren’s but i don’t have glaucoma after all, it was just high blood sugar.

    • AnthonyC says:

      I, too, am 5’11”, 175lbs, which by BMI is considered overweight. I’m not particularly muscular, and I certainly do not appear overweight, but my BMI is just about 25.

      OTOH, as soon as I get above 185lbs (which has happened), I start to develop a noticeably fatter stomach, so it isn’t *that* far off for me.

    • duncanblackthorne says:

      BMI charts are complete bullshit, they make all sorts of assumptions based on statistical averages that have nothing to do with many people, especially athletes. Any professional who is using BMI charts should not be trusted, they’re idiots. Proper body composition analysis, like from a DEXA scan or hydrodensitometry, is the only way to really know if you’re fat or not.

  7. Mpowered says:

    Yes, but BMI is sometimes inaccurate and shouldn’t be used as an obesity measure. Obesity should be a function of body fat percentage. I wouldn’t put too much weight on any study that uses BMI as the sole determining factor of a person’s obesity.

    BMI is only used because it’s extremely easy to calculate.

    • Zowzers says:

      Precisely, BMI was designed to create a statistic on Millions of people. It falls apart when its applied to the individual.

      Me, I pretty much ignore the results of statistics that use BMI on such a small sample size.

    • obits3 says:

      Sounds like the BMI needs some occam’s razor liposuction…

  8. Mike says:

    I’ll read this article when I am done eating my organic gummy bears. They are healthy because they are organic right? Right?

  9. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    No kiddin’? Pass me the Twinkies.

  10. photoguy622 says:

    All one needs to do is try online dating… a good number of people are delusional about their body type… that doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes them silly.

  11. c!tizen says:

    I blame department store mirrors.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      I don’t shop in stores so I don’t know about dept store mirrors, but at work there is a full length mirror in the ladies room, and it takes about 50 lbs off. When I was heavier I looked good in that mirror (the only full length one I was ever around) and now that I’m at a good weight, I look model thin in it.

  12. qwickone says:

    I was just thinking yesterday that doctors should measure your body fat % (maybe with calipers? are there other simple options?) and tell you. Every time I go to the dr, they tell me my height and weight, and I think body fat should be added to those measurements. That gives people one less chance to delude themselves and is a more appropriate representation of your overall health than BMI. (I realize there are groups that this may not work for, but I think it can be used for the general public.)

    • Limewater says:

      To my knowledge, the only really accurate way to measure body fat is underwater weighing. Things like calipers and those little hand-held machines aren’t that accurate.

      • ARP says:

        I thought those scales with the electrical impulses were pretty accurate.

        • Limewater says:

          I think the scales work the same way as the handheld things. But no, they aren’t really that accurate. This is just an anecdote, and not the basis for my position, but every time I’ve used one personally (even when administered at health clinics by others), I’ve registered as 0 or an error message. I’m on the lean side, but a value of zero is not really possible in a living human, and I assure you that I care more than minimal body fat.

          • tooluser says:

            I lost all my faith in science of all kinds when it was revealed to me that most astronomical measurements are only accurate to within +/-50%. And the scientists know it. And they never talk about it.

            • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

              All science is not worthless because measurement is imperfect (yet improving all the time), goober.

    • jesusofcool says:

      I’ve thought about whether there’s a better measure as well. I’m very thin and my weight has always been low. However, I certainly don’t survive on carrot sticks and baked fish – I eat my veggies but also my fair share of unhealthy or processed food. I live in a city and walk a lot, but I don’t work out much other than that. By my weight alone, I’m healthy or underweight to every doctor I’ve ever seen. But am I really?

      • LadyTL says:

        That’s the most dangerous thing about the BMI I think. It causes so many doctors to no longer ask about their patient’s lifestyle. They just assume “healthy” BMI, healthy person.

  13. jason in boston says:

    Just make sure calories in are less than calories out. Doesn’t take into effect overall health but it will work for weight.

    • aloria says:

      One problem is people have a hard time estimating both of those numbers. How many calories do I burn in a day? Some websites say 1500, some say 1800. How many calories are in that random restaurant entree? The menu doesn’t say. Even cooking at home can be confusing if you’re making food from scratch or just suck at measuring portions.

      • rpm773 says:

        It’s not that hard when cooking at home. I use this site

        I make most things from scratch and only pay attention to the items that have calories: fats, starches, and meats. I just figure out what I’m going to use, add it all up, and estimate what percentage of it I ate. After a while, I just started to get a sense of the calories…because I more or less use the same set of ingredients.

        But I agree, letting someone else do the prep for you (like a restaurant or a processed food factory) makes things a lot more difficult.

        • DoubleBaconVeggieBurger says:

          aloria asked how many calories are BURNED in a day, not consumed.

          • rpm773 says:

            Aloria: The menu doesn’t say. Even cooking at home can be confusing if you’re making food from scratch or just suck at measuring portions.

            ???

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          ‘I make most things from scratch and only pay attention to the items that have calories: fats, starches, and meats.’

          So where do you buy those calorie-free fruits and vegetables?

          • rpm773 says:

            I should be more clear – I pay attention to the items where the calories can add up quickly. A serving of broccoli, greens, or green beans doesn’t add much to the bottom line.

      • Michaela says:

        You can always go in and get tested to figure your bmr. However, if you honestly just use other sites (like the food pyramid site or any other) and adjust your diet as you notice undesired weight gain/loss, you can do without the test. I have never tested my bmr, but I have no trouble monitoring my calorie intake to maintain my small frame now (though I do still struggle with my ed and bdd sometimes…but hey, nobody is perfect).

    • photoguy622 says:

      Oh Jason in Boston you’re nothing if not constant. I agree with what you said, but you sure like to bang that drum.

      No snarkiness intended.

    • tooluser says:

      Yes, exactly. And if you are horrendously, starvingly hungry — just don’t eat. Simple. It’s so simple.

      • LadyTL says:

        Except for the people who get physically sick if they don’t eat properly but most champions of “calorie in, calorie out” tend to ignore that people aren’t all the same.

  14. ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

    Repeat after me: The “Obesity Epidemic” is a lot of nonsense.

    There, now don’t you feel better?

    BMI was never intended to function as a barometer for health- and even if it was, it’s a crappy barometer because there is no barometer, and at the end of the day, do what makes you happy- not what people tell you you “need” to do. I’ve found nothing pisses people off more than doing whatever you want with yourself, no matter how little it affects them, and even when it does, the response if usually way overblown.

    BTW: Calorie counts on labeling are inaccurate, and even when they are accurate they use bomb calorimetry- which only makes sense as a metric if you burn things in your stomach. It has also been demonstrated time and time again that people will metabolize the same food differently, and form fat deposits and muscle tissue in a manner that seems to accord with genetics more than anything else. Professional dietitians, more than doctors, will tell you this because their experience with people tends to indicate that deficiencies in nutrients are a bigger problem than calorie counts.

    • Truthie says:

      BMI may not be a perfect surrogate for overall health. but study after study has shown that high BMI is strongly associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, including such “hard” endpoints as heart attack and death. You could use more elaborate methods such as body composition calculations, but BMi is accurate enough for most people to indicate a higher level of cardiovascular risk (unless you are an athlete, bodybuilder, etc.)

      And whether or not you call it “the obesity epidemic”, there are a lot more obese people than there used to be in the US (and obesity rates are rising in most of the world). And higher levels of obesity are leading to higher rates of diabetes and other diseases. This has been shown time and time again by the CDC and hundreds, if not thousands, of studies across the world.

      Sorry but facts are facts. Modern, evidence-based medicine is all about identifying risk factors by looking at large population-based data, and that data has conclusively shown that obesity levels have risen sharply since 1980, and that obesity is an independent risk factor for many health conditions.

      • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

        study after study has shown that high BMI is strongly associated with a variety of poor health outcomes, including such “hard” endpoints as heart attack and death.

        Repeat after me: Correlation is not causation.

        Epidemiology is a science which relies on correlation because that’s all it has up its sleeve. Only hard data demonstrating mechanisms of action are acceptable. The simple fact is, most people are not morbidly obese, not even according to BMI. Then there’s the fact that BMI data is easily skewed because the scale itself has been adjusted.

        Remember that decreased mobility and morbidity are frequently related. I.e. a person with a heart condition gets less exercise because exercise can be painful. Once again, correlation does not indicate causation.

        Also, you ignore what I’m pointing out about the ability of people to lose weight as a “lifestyle choice” at some peril: Even if it is a problem- it’s not quite so clear that there is an easy solution. Remember that severe hunger related to poverty in this country was a reality not that long ago, in this idealized time when we were all “thinner”. Meanwhile, there is more convincing and better science to the fact that yo-yo dieting is worse than maintaining any weight, and that exercise is a bigger factor in overall health than weight. Remember also that being underweight is by far and away more dangerous than being overweight. But underweight people belong on magazine covers- not news coverage about how OMG-they’regonnadie!

        We’re all gonna die. I’m over it. Are you?

        • El Soze says:

          Repeat something enough and people will start to believe it.
          Insert some other phrase here.
          yada yada.

          Anyhow, yes more weight has proven to cause health issues.
          Yes, if you intake more calories than your body burns it gets stored as fat, and you gain weight.

          Interestingly enough, there is a growing amount of research that shows eating less will lead to a longer life. A lot less in fact.
          http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1963392_1963366_1963381,00.html

          I worked with a guy from Nigeria on my last contract. Skinny guy, very smart, hardly ate anything at all. We all though he was like 38/39. He’s 58. Blew my freakin mind.

          • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

            I like how you tell me things are proven and you don’t cite anything, and then throw an anecdote into the mix. I’m familiar with articles in PNAS and other studies that have been of acute bouts of fasting and the effect on physiological conditions.

            Meanwhile, a pop-sci article about a study that has not drawn conclusions isn’t evidence of anything. In fact, it’s less than evidence of anything. Especially since I have no idea what the methodology is going to be. It’s a crappy Time article- no hints at what the controls are, what statistics are being used and who’s doing the funding. If you’re trying to convince someone with it, pick someone who doesn’t actually do science.

      • schdav says:

        The point is the studies you are referring to are looking at groups of people, not a specific person. I believe ParingKnife is taking issue with the fact that this study is using BMI as a measurement for specific people, rather than using more accurate diagnostic tools that may be more applicable in this kind of study.

        I’m sure BMI was used because it is super easy to calculate and doesn’t cost anything.

        The text of this story following the “More worrisome” lead-in could, in my opinion, be interpreted that actually we do have a pretty good idea about whether or not we correctly identify ourselves as overweight if 50% say they are and BMI says 60%. I’d believe the individual’s assessment over the grossly over simplified population measurement tool any day.

      • LadyTL says:

        Until the BMI can subtract for high muscle mass and high bone density and size, it is nothing but garbage. Almost any person who works out in some way to the point that they have a decent muscle build gets skewed towards being “overweight”. Also over-reliance of the BMI causes doctors to ignore medical tests that say a person is healthy despite weight and not do tests on a person who have a “healthy” weight. It is nothing but bad medicine that is degrading the health industry.

        • 12345678nine says:

          I’m sorry, but if someone works out enough to have a large part of their weight put them in the “obese” category because of the amount of muslce tone they have, then they know they are not “obese”.
          Love when people are like “BMI is all garbage so there. no one can tell me I’M unhealthy because blah blah blah”.
          Yes, the BMI structure is no where NEAR perfect. If you are way on the unhealthy scale according to BMI, though, and you knwo it’s not because you work out 5 times a week, then I think it is pretty safe to say you actually are “obese”.

          • LadyTL says:

            Correlation is Not Causation. By allowing doctors to ignore real medical tests like blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol simply because a fake weight to height ratio insists that the person really is sick is dangerous. I have had doctors admit I don’t have enough fat even in my body to lose the weight they want but they still tell me to try. I understand I don’t have the body type that is in fashion at the moment but it is insulting that I am supposed to trust a measurement that causes doctors to ignore real medical tests.

            • dwtomek says:

              I’m getting the feeling that you got your “special note” more for sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling until the bad words go away than for being right. You say you don’t have enough fat on your body to lose the weight they want you to. You also say that you don’t have a fashionable body type. Last I checked, the people with no body fat to lose were the fashion models. (Not that I am suggesting in any way they are healthy).

              But then again your commenting here has been entirely of the “finger in ears” variety so I guess you can just go on being “right”.

              • LadyTL says:

                I never said I have no fat to lose, I just don’t have the 150 they want and even they admit it. I have about 50-75. Also if you have nothing better to do than resort to name calling I suggest to keep it to yourself.

                • 12345678nine says:

                  Sheesh there WAS no name calling. You really do just hear what you want. It’s freaking weird.

                  • ccooney says:

                    sounds like she admits to being fat, but is also healthy. Seriously, if you have 50-75 to lose, then you should probably lose some of it, but when all your vitals are good, then it isn’t that high a priority.

    • ARP says:

      It’s patently obvious to me and many others that as a nation, we’re getting fatter and that size is causing more problems. The exact percentages may be off, due to BMI accuracy issues, but its still a huge (ha!) problem.

    • Brontide says:

      Is BMI flawed, yes, but it’s better than nothing. I tend to think of it as height adjusted weight. It would be best if it was height and BF adjusted, but BF measurements are not exactly easy or accurate to obtain. For those whose muscle tone is more than 10% different from the masses, BMI can lead to inappropriate conclusions in either direction.

      Don’t get me wrong, there are some conflicting reports on how dangerous being “a little overweight” is. Doing a search on the “Obesity Paradox” will being up lots of good studies on the phenomenon. To suggest that obesity is not a harbinger for other problems is being ignorant.

      Among people I have spoken to that have not lost weight magical thinking abounds. Healthy eating will solve the problem, HFCS is the devil ( but will drink sugar based sodas ), the government is poising us with plastic, …. the problem with all of these is that they are wrong. Barring the rare metabolic problem most people just eat too many calories, healthy or not.

      The fact that calorie counts are not 100% accurate are annoying, but not fatal to calorie counting since everything is an estimate and if what you are eating is estimated high then you just keep adjusting your input until the correct goal is achieved. It’s also common sense to give your self a buffer when you are attempting to lose weight. If you try and game the system you will lose.

      I have gone through a period in my life where I was obese and was able to lose everything I wanted and then some through calorie restrictions and exercise.

      • LadyTL says:

        Well, so glad your body type fits what is fashionable at the moment but not everyone is you. Also the BMI causes doctors to ignore “healthy” BMI people even if they have problems associated with being “obese” while overfocusing and hounding people who can’t use the BMI. It is bad medicine and needs to be done away with.

        • Brontide says:

          Your post doesn’t make sense.

          Doctors are telling healthy bodybuilders to lose weight?

          Doctors are ignoring “sick” patients because their BMI is normal?

          Do you have any documentation to back up those claims or are you just making wild accusations?

          • LadyTL says:

            I have a special little note in medical file because even though every real medical test says I am healthy, they want me to listen to hours of lectures from the doctor and nurses about how my weight is making me dangerously unhealthy. My blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, x-rays, all say I am perfectly healthy. The only thing that doesn’t is the BMI and it hasn’t said I am “healthy” since I hit puberty and grew boobs. I don’t carry a ton of excess fat around. Hell, I have proof that I have a large skeletal structure to support my weight and the muscle mass I have. There is even another guy on here saying how a doctor refused to believe something was wrong with him because he had a “healthy” BMI.

            • Brontide says:

              My doctor ignores me all the time no matter what my weight was, that’s hardly an argument.

              You really do sound like you are in denial. You may be healthy, you are also an outlier. To claim the whole system is flawed because you don’t fit the mold is silly. The fact is that *most* of the time BMI is a legitimate yardstick to assess how fat someone it.

              • LadyTL says:

                And you are ignoring my point that the use of the BMI is causing doctors to ignore the fact that most is not all. I understand quite readily that the BMI does not apply to me but when I have to deal with dozens of doctors trying to force it on me, something is wrong with their training and with the system.

                • 12345678nine says:

                  me thinks you are completely overreacting. You are overweight. They advise you that you need to lose weight. You decided they are giving you a specific amount of weight to lose and you disagree with that.
                  Ok…if you lose that 60 lbs or whatever you think you need to lose, and you appear to be at a healthy weight, I really doubt someone is going to tell you to keep losing it.
                  Heeeey, how about you just give it a shot!

              • ccooney says:

                > The fact is that *most* of the time BMI is a legitimate yardstick to assess how fat someone it.

                And BF% or just looking at someone works _all_ the time. Seriously, how would you like it if the doc wanted to lecture you about your dangerous health condition as indicated by BMI (which isn’t medically sound), whilst ignoring all the other stats that say she’s perfectly healthy?

      • jabberwockgee says:

        Government is poising us with plastic? That’s some bizarre micromanagement.

  15. schdav says:

    The modern use of BMI (ratio of weight to height squared) was never intended to be used as an accurate diagnosis of an individual person’s healthy weight status but rather as a somewhat better way to measure the relative weight status of a population versus just using height and weight. There are far more accurate ways to determine if a person’s constitution puts them at a higher risk for certain diseases.

    I’m personally a pretty big fat-ass, and sure I eat things that are on most people’s “bad for you” lists sometimes, but my diet probably consists of more “healthly” food than the average American, I just eat a heck of a lot of it. What can I say, I love food and suck at moderation.

    Dieting is a lost cause for most people, at least in the way that most American’s approach it. I don’t know many people who are overweight, especially significantly, that have the will power to lose weight quickly and keep it off for any significant period of time. I’m currently attempting to lose about 10 lbs. a year until I reach a level of fitness that I feel comfortable with. It’ll probably take me 10 years or so to achieve my goal, but I bet it’ll be a more permanent change and I won’t end up hating myself at the end of it.

  16. Hotscot says:

    I am very much aware that my belly is from alcohol. My food is very fresh, good protein, lots of vegetables, nothing processed.

    Has anyone ever lost a lot of weight by reducing alcohol intake.

    • bnelson333 says:

      On the contrary, I always lost more weight per week if I had a few beers as opposed to the weeks I didn’t drink.

      It’s true, but a couple things to think about. IIRC, the reason alcohol and weight loss generally don’t go well together is because alcohol “interrupts” the way your body processes calories. So if you drink every night, you are constantly bothering it and it’s hard to get a good fat burn metabolism going.

      However, occasional drinking is fine. If nothing more, it helps you relax, and less stress = better weight loss. It’s still calories though, so plan accordingly.

    • pot_roast says:

      I know several people that lost weight after they stopped drinking. Your mileage may vary.

    • dwtomek says:

      Not to suggest that my alcohol consumption is healthy in any way…but switching from Coke to Diet-Coke in my Rum n’ Cokes kicked off 15lbs for me without changing anything else. After I added in some serious exercise and dietary restraint I’m now the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, yeah you’ll probably lose weight if you cut out the drinking. At least if you drink as much as I do, which is to say a lot.

  17. RxDude says:

    “had BMIs in the overweight range”

    There’s part of the problem. BMI is not an accurate measure of fitness. Rough ballpark estimate in a large group of people, maybe, but BMI is not the factor to measure in any serious study.

  18. Simon Barsinister says:

    I eat very healthy and my weight is good. It’s not magic, it’s just a choice.

    I’m 5′ 10″ 150lbs. I eat almost exclusively fresh vegetables, meat and dairy driven over from a farm in the next state each week. All free-range, no antibiotics or insecticides. I rarely drink anything but water, and I drink plenty of that. I try not to eat anything processed. Occasionally I’ll eat fast food like “Subways” if I can’t get anything else. Never food-like substances like McDonalds.

    My entire family eats the same way. It’s not a panacea, but we seem to rarely get sick while everyone around us is constantly getting colds.

    • LadyTL says:

      That’s great that your genetics let you have a body shape in the current fashion but please bear in mind that it is not the standard nor does it mean that other people’s bodies will act the same as your’s.

      • 12345678nine says:

        ……………How did you read that and come to the conclusion that “genetics” are the cause for him being at a healthy weight?

        You are really doing well in proving the whole “in denial” aspect of this discussion.

      • Smultronstallet says:

        Actually, it sounds like a healthy life style has led him to a healthy weight. You can’t just blame genetics for making one overweight.

  19. Truthie says:

    I’m not fat, I’m big boned! Follow your dreams, I’m living proof, BEEFCAKE!

    • LadyTL says:

      I have actual proof I am big boned for a girl. No fat on my wrists and ankles at all but my wrists are 7 and a half inches around and my ankles are`12 inches around. I can’t wear women’s rings, bracelets or anklets at all because they are all too small. My ring size is a 10 and a half on my ring fingers.

  20. redskull says:

    I learned that my size 36 waist jeans have been lying to me for some time. I recently had to buy a new belt, and I couldn’t even get a size 36 belt to fasten around my waist.

    • Brontide says:

      Vanity sizing has arrived in menswear with a vengeance. Watch with an eagle eye as the term “inches” are dropped from the labels of pants and other items traditionally measured in inches. Old Navy is the worst with as much as 6 inches of vanity sizing, Levi’s are around 2, and other retailers are all over the map. Come on, you didn’t really think that Old Navy suddenly started carrying 26″ Jeans to cater to new clients, they needed them to keep their old clients or they would have been sized out like the women now forced to wear 000’s.

      Don’t think it’s a quality control issue either when the lengths are getting smaller while waist is growing ( a 30 length is more like 29″ ).

  21. El_Fez says:

    Me, no delusions here – I know I’m a Fatty McFatso mutherfucker. But then I hit the gym at least 5 times* a week to try and do something about it. And I’m trying the Eat Less, Fatso diet, where you lose weight by not supersizing every damned meal.

    *Usually. I took great swaths of Christmas and new years off.

    Am I perfect? Hell no – I fall off the wagon all the time. But by shunning McFast Food every dinner, I’ve been making progress. Down 75-ish pounds since I started!

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      I’ve never super-sized a meal and need to lose 50 lbs. I can’t even eat a full meal. I can eat 1/2 of a burger and about 1/2 an order of small fries. I rarely snack. I actually eat less in quantity and more healthy than anyone I personally know and am still overweight.

      • El_Fez says:

        Well, it sounds like you have the first part of my “Eat Less, Move Around More” diet down pat – eat less. How are you on the Move Around More part? Both of those, in conjunction and you’ll lose weight like nobody’s business!

      • Brontide says:

        Many people can not accurately gauge how many calories they are eating. Have you actually tried weighing and measuring what you are eating and comparing that to what you should be eating ( in terms of calories )? When you do lose that 50 pounds you will need to eat even less! Barring a thyroid disorder the problem ( easily checked with bloodwork ) your problem is in your perception of what you are eating.

        Magical thinking that “healthy eating” will solve a weight problem is also a laugh. It’s calories, not carrots, that matter for weight.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      Losing it is one thing. Something like 80% of people can’t keep weight off. Don’t get me wrong, you do what you want, more power to ya. It’s none of my damn business. But, I hate to see people fall into cycles of self-chastisement and frustration over what may not be that big a deal in the end. Just keep in mind yo-yoing isn’t too great for the ol’ pancreas and all that.

    • 12345678nine says:

      Congrats on the healthy change! That’s excellent!

  22. momtimestwo says:

    That poor cat!

  23. Outrun1986 says:

    I would just for one moment like to take the chance to inform everyone here that we are NOT the only country with a massive health problem. I keep seeing obesity, obesity in the news but there are other countries suffering just as much:

    Japan actually has a problem with many women being underweight, since women over there judge themselves so harshly on being thin (trust me its much worse than the USA) that they tend to starve themselves or not eat, or eat very little. As a result Japan actually has a very big problem with women getting Osteoporosis since they are not getting enough nutrition. What’s bad is women in Japan are decreasing in weight as they get older, you aren’t supposed to weigh less than you did in high school when you are 50-60, unless you were very obese in high school. Weighing very little when you are older is a good way to get Osteoporosis. Its probably not as notable as the obesity epidemic in America but it is a problem regardless.

    We have grocery stores filled with processed foods, in some area’s there isn’t even a grocery store that stocks fresh fruits and veggies, if you can even afford it when the price of grapes is $4 a pound and it costs over a dollar just to get one apple. Over here the fruits and veggies are so expensive in the winter time that most people can’t afford them, especially when you realize how little grapes you are actually getting for that $4 a pound. Processed foods are advertised to us massively and are everywhere and constantly being shoved at our faces, and our breakfast cereals are laced with so much sugar you may as well eat sugar cubes for breakfast (this is a big problem that I notice when shopping for cereal its really tough to find one that doesn’t have much sugar). Its no wonder we have an obesity problem.

    What irks me about this is the obesity epidemic keeps getting tons and tons of news coverage, but it seems there is very little actually being done about it! Perhaps we have found the root of the problem, the US loves to report and embellish a problem, but we don’t actually like to do anything about it to at least reduce the problem a little bit!!! If we put all the effort we put into reporting about the problem into actually doing something about it we may be getting somewhere!

    • ShariC says:

      The roots of the problem are cultural and psychological, and difficult to fix. People are much more interested in elevating their sense of self at the expense of others than applying any sort of reason and by judging people’s lifestyle choices.

      The primary problems are distorted sense of portion size, distorted sense of caloric values (particularly when applied to food which is highly nutritious like fruit, healthy fats, and whole grains), and lifestyle issues which relate to valuing work over health that affect serotonin levels (which increases hunger) and screws with insulin levels and ability to move (that mess with metabolism). The relationship humans have with food is complex both psychologically and biologically and everyone seems interested in oversimplifying it to one statement, “put down the donut”. :-p

      • LadyTL says:

        It also ignores centuries of genetics that encouraged people to put on weight when stressed so they wouldn’t starve. Those genetics didn’t just disapear one day because now it is fashionable to be thin and tall.

  24. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    Full article requires a subscription?

  25. sifr says:

    Yay for continuing to propagate the idea that the BMI is somehow a legitimate measure of someone’s health and body composition, rather than informing people that it’s nothing more than a quick 18th-century hack for the government to measure the average health of a POPULATION (not individuals!) based on average height and weight.

    Want to see morbidly obese people? Go watch any bodybuilding competition. Each and every one of the competitors at the national level are morbidly obese according to the BMI.

    • LadyTL says:

      Until the BMI can subtract for high muscle mass and high bone density and size, it is nothing but garbage. Almost any person who works out in some way to the point that they have a decent muscle build gets skewed towards being “overweight”. Also over-reliance of the BMI causes doctors to ignore medical tests that say a person is healthy despite weight and not do tests on a person who have a “healthy” weight. It is nothing but bad medicine that is degrading the health industry.

      • LadyTL says:

        Sorry reply was meant for a different comment

      • 12345678nine says:

        But these people KNOW they are not overweight. You can look at them and TELL it’s muscle. Why are you being so silly? You have really met more people who thought they were “obese” when they were actually very fit and toned then you know people who are overweight but think they are at the “healthy” end of the spectrum?

  26. photoguy622 says:

    Interesting sample size… 1… 2… 3… 4… c’mon baby say your healthy!

  27. Joe_lovz_buying says:

    Many people here are saying the BMI calculation is just not good for an individual.

    I totally disagree. The BMI chart is correct for most people. Arguments like yours are the point of the whole ‘deluded’ part of the article.

    There are a few people who are super athletic that break the mold, otherwise it’s pretty on.
    Only really body builders and professional athletes break the mold. If your BMI is non-ideal your body fat isn’t either.

    Look at it this way Arnold Schwarzenegger is 6’2″ at his most ripped and largest size in competition he weighed 235.

    That just BEARLY makes him obese by the BMI chart. Most people just aren’t at that level of fitness.

    You can be overweight and still look really good, heck you can even be fit. It still isn’t good for your health.

    • LadyTL says:

      Until the BMI can subtract for high muscle mass and high bone density and size, it is nothing but garbage. Almost any person who works out in some way to the point that they have a decent muscle build gets skewed towards being “overweight”. Also over-reliance of the BMI causes doctors to ignore medical tests that say a person is healthy despite weight and not do tests on a person who have a “healthy” weight. It is nothing but bad medicine that is degrading the health industry.

      • webweazel says:

        Agreed. Some people have thin bones and some have big bones. I’m a chick, 5’8″ and built like a linebacker. My hands are literally larger than 85% of most men I have measured to, regardless of their particular height. Plus, I have big boobs which probably weigh 15 pounds each. If they wanted to calculate my REAL BMI, they’d have to remove the boob weight first. Actual weight for me, just doesn’t compute correctly with something like this.
        As you mention people with a high muscle build, working out regularly to increase muscle, eventually the body itself creates larger and stronger bones to carry those stronger muscles on. Again, BMI is out the window.

      • Joe_lovz_buying says:

        Um no it is not bad medicine. The most extreme example, a competition bodybuilder, I could come up with just barely breaks the system.

        Health is a combination of many factors and BMI is one that is usually pretty good for most people. No doctor will look at a BMI alone and declare you healthy or unhealthy.

        This is really feeding into the article’s premise that people are deluded about obesity. If your BMI is 30+ you are almost certainly obese.

  28. Draw2much says:

    If you’re using BMI to weight individual people, then of course 6 out of 10 (or 1 in 3) people are going to be overweight. BMI doesn’t work for individual weight. Duh.

    Being over weight can sometimes be hard to gauge. I mean, when you’re border line it’s not always obvious, depending on your build. But when you’re on the “heavy” end of being over weight, you can tell. And you’d have to be off in your own little world to not notice being obese.

    I’ve traveled all over the USA. The only place I consistently saw *obesity* in high numbers was in my home town area of southern Mississippi. I live in Texas right now, which supposedly has a lot of obesity too, but I’ve yet to see it in the concentrated numbers I did in my home town. (Maybe it depends on where in Texas you live? It’s a big state after all.)

  29. Amy Alkon says:

    I’m a newspaper columnist and blogger, and I’ve been recommending people read Gary Taubes (author of the new book “Why We Get Fat”) and Dr. Michael Eades (proteinpower.com/drmike), Dr. William Davis, and others for years, and get several letters a week from people who have dropped major amounts of weight — relatively effortlessly — and kept it off.

    How? By eating according to science — as laid out by Taubes and the rest above — not “science,” which is what government and many doctors’ advice is based on. Taubes, an investigative science journalist, lays out the evidence that it’s carbohydrates — sugar, flour, starchy vegetables like potatoes, apple juice, etc. — that cause the insulin secretion that puts on fat.

    Readers write to me that they’ve struggled with their weight for decades and by reading these guys — and seeing Dr. Robert Lustig’s video on how sugar seems to be a poison for the human body — that they have gotten to a healthy weight for the first time in a long time. Many or most also write that their overall health stats (like blood pressure) have improved wildly.

    (Taubes details in his earlier book — “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” which is too tough a read for many without a science background — that the food pyramid was the creation of an aide to George McGovern with no science experience. Lovely.)

    Even if you don’t want to buy the book, all these guys above have blogs, and link to others’ who are evidence-based. Google Lustig and “sugar” if you want to watch his video.

    • bnelson333 says:

      Carbs schmarbs, we don’t need another low carb diet out there.

      Cutting carbs does NOT make you lose weight. Cutting CALORIES does. But it just so happens that carbs are more calorie dense, so you cut out a lot of calories by cutting carbs. People shed pounds like no tomorrow and think cutting carbs was the magic trick.

      No, they just finally got themselves to eat under the calorie threshold at which point their body still needs additional calories to function, and therefore will start burning fat reserves to make up the difference.

      Unless you are sensitive to carbs (diabetic, etc) there is no reason to cut them out entirely. Reduce as appropriate to meet a healthy calorie target, choose complex over simple when possible, but beyond that, don’t be afraid to enjoy them. Besides, your body, and especially brain need carbs to function properly.

      • baquwards says:

        I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      • jenesaisrien says:

        PLenty of current info for smart consumers like those found here to combat carbohydrate confusion. It’s getting a little tiny bit more complicated than.. calories in calories out you can’t eliminate a food group you must have carbs to live and for your brain to function it’s all about good carbs or bad carbs it’s only a problem if you are diabetic….darn it and we really we thought we had it there for a while.
        Also there is no dearth of evidence based info for those that have any interest, already in daily practice in the health care community-
        Some helpful links in
        i.e. about.com low carb diets

  30. ShariC says:

    There is a difference between eating poorly and eating in the right calorie range. The flip-side of the largely inaccurate opinion that overweight people are eating tons of junk food everyday is that they believe that eating healthily leads to weight control. Weight control is not about what you eat, but the calories in those foods. You can get fat off of oatmeal, fruit, vegetables, healthy carbs like whole wheat bread and pasta, and lean meat. Healthy food is calorie dense, too.

    Health control relates to what you eat. Weight control relates to how much. This is how skinny people can eat junk and stay thin. They may not be healthy, but they’re still eating below the calorie threshold for weight management/control. People need to eat, on the whole, quite a bit less than they think. Most people would be surprised how easily you can get fat on fruit, for instance.

    The idea that eating well will keep your weight in the right place is simply wrong. And the idea that fat people eat garbage all of the time is also wrong. The media does no favors and the prejudice people apply to overweight people just keep all of these misunderstandings in place.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Its really quite a mixed bag out there, you have those that overeat 3x a day at a restaurant and are huge (know a couple people like that) so these people would fit the tub of lard that eats at a restaurant way too much stereotype. However you also have people who are overweight and who eat good foods and don’t eat fast food and are very aware of what they are eating (also know people in this group). According to the media if you don’t eat fast food you are gonna be thin, not always the case, I can’t say fast food isn’t bad for you but not everyone who eats it is a tub of lard like the media suggests. Some people just use it as a quick emergency bite to eat or eat it only once a month or less as a special treat. Its so true that the media projects, OMG you are a tub of lard if you eat a french fry!!!

  31. human_shield says:

    It doesn’t help that we are bombarded with deceptive marketing. “Health” choices in restaurants that really aren’t healthy at all.

    • PadThai says:

      People are confused. Basically any health claim out there has an exact opposite floating around. The prevailing wisdom of dieting used to be eat as little fat as possible, even if it meant eating nothing but pure carbohydrates at every meal. People get overwhelmed with suggestions and tips from “experts” and are unable to tell what’s really medical advice or just someone trying to sell a weight loss program or a book. Then they either give up, or take bad advice. There isn’t any good nutritional guidelines available that are clearly recognizable as such.
      And it doesn’t help that you can buy a 64 oz soda and not be looked at like a crazy person.

  32. bnelson333 says:

    Since BMI is getting such a bad rap, I will defend it. If for no other reason than that it can be a good thought provoker about your own health.

    Most of my adult life I was about 190 lbs. Overweight by BMI standards, but I didn’t care. Some crazy years went by and I shot up to 230. My only real goal was to get back to 190, and I did, and it was OK. But I was still overweight according to BMI, which got me thinking that maybe I could stand to lose more.

    I finally got down to about 165, normal according to BMI. And honestly, looking at pictures now, 190 was wayyyy too big for me, I was still fat. 160s/170s feels much more normal for me, I’m glad BMI helped motivate me to keep going.

    I’ll never reach 155 (“ideal” per BMI, I’m 5’11”), that would look sickly on me. So I agree it’s not the be all end all, but it can help.

    • npage148 says:

      Excellent point, I’m really tired of people completely disregarding BMI becasue “it doesn’t fit them”. These people are either deluded or Mr. Universe. It’s used becasue it easy calculated with 2 ubiquitous measures and correlates to outcome well.

      My chronically overweight on BMI (5-7 and 160-180#) and really only get into healthy weight at my race weight (I’m a runner and this is about 150). Part of this is my larger frame size but I can always stand to lose more weight.

      It’s along the same lines as the “healthy obese” people. It really doesn’t matter that you do yoga 5x a week and walk 3 hours a day. Your BMI is still >30 (obese) and your heart isn’t a fan of pumping your blood through an extra 30 lbs of meat

    • LadyTL says:

      Until the BMI can subtract for high muscle mass and high bone density and size, it is nothing but garbage. Almost any person who works out in some way to the point that they have a decent muscle build gets skewed towards being “overweight”. Also over-reliance of the BMI causes doctors to ignore medical tests that say a person is healthy despite weight and not do tests on a person who have a “healthy” weight. It is nothing but bad medicine that is degrading the health industry.

  33. Carlee says:

    I don’t think I am one of those Americans in “denial”. My BMI is in the “normal” range, though I would like to lose about 10 pounds or so (and would still have a normal BMI). I know I don’t eat healthy – I probably have disordered eating (though not an eating disorder) because I eat little when I’m starting a new “diet” and then end up eating too much. I like eating junk food from time to time. I don’t like most fruits or vegetables and I love cookies. And I am really bad at exercising.

    My mom, on the other hand, is overweight (though not obese) and has been told to lose weight by her doctor. She has joint pain and also hypertension. But no matter how many fruits and veggies she tries to cram into her eating habits (while cutting out rice, and limiting the amount of meat/fat), she just can’t lose the weight. I think it’s because that while she does understand that she needs to reduce the amount of calories she ingests (she does exercise, though not excessively), she has a mentality that she can’t waste food so if we’re eating out and can’t get a doggie bag, she feels compelled to finish everything on her plate. She also loves to cook (though she doesn’t like feeling like it’s her “duty” as a wife/mother).

  34. tooluser says:

    We need strict government regulation of all aspects of our lives. No matter is too small for someone to feel bad about themselves. Perhaps we could elect half our politicians from a political party that supports the absolute degradation of all humanity but for themselves.

    Note for those who cannot recognize sarcasm: That was sarcasm.

  35. AnthonyC says:

    This doesn’t really surprise me, though I am glad to see it reflected in actual data.

    This Christmas my mother told us all she made her butter cookies with 25% whole wheat flour, because she felt it was healthier. I mean, seriously? You think it really makes a difference when you’re making *butter cookies*?

    • tooluser says:

      Butter cookies made with all white flour have no fiber. Butter cookies made with whole wheat flour have fiber. There are probably several other dietary parameters that the 25% whole wheat butter cookies excel at compared to butter cookies made with plain white flour.

      Don’t sell Mom short. Even if you ignore the facts, at the very least you know that she meant well.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      You don’t eat a dozen butter cookies every day, do you? So they’re hardly going to kill you. What’s so horrible about adding a little wholemeal flour for an extra fiber for a boost when you do have a few? Not everything needs to be low-cal, sweetened with Splenda and fat-free.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I love them, and have no objection to either enjoying some cookies, or to adding additional fiber to a delicious treat.

        Rather, it’s an example of an underlying belief that adding the words “whole wheat” magically makes something “healthy” rather than “less unhealthy.”

        Look at the article. People (including me!) “have a tendency to give themselves more credit than they perhaps deserve.”

  36. giax says:

    The marketers tell how healthy a start for a day it is to get hfcs- and color loaded cereals and how your body can’t tell the difference between sugar or hfcs.
    Oh and chicken and other meats are still totally healthy even when breaded and deep fried.
    So according to the people doing the advertising for food industry, yes, most people eat at least somewhat healthy.

  37. Simon Barsinister says:

    I just picked up some infant formula for my niece. Ingredient #1: lowfat milk. Ingredient #2: corn syrup.

    Really? The ONLY food an infant gets is loaded with corn syrup?! Why the hell would they do that?
    It’s not like it’s going to affect the infant’s choice of foods. It the only thing he eats.

    Also, BTW, why lowfat? An infant needs some fat. Mother’s milk has fat.
    No corn syrup though.

    • haggis for the soul says:

      I’m surprised to hear that it’s lowfat milk, too. Babies brains need fat for development, don’t they? I’m, sadly, not surprised to hear about the corn syrup.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Surprised about that as well, though I have never had kids so I can’t compare formulas. I am guessing they are replacing the fat with the corn syrup, because this is done in most light or low fat foods. If you look at a jar of reduced fat peanut butter the ingredients are HFCS, sugar and the other stuff that is normally in peanut butter but there is less fat. But if you look at a jar of regular peanut butter it usually contains very little sugar (2-3 grams vs the 10-12 of so called reduced fat peanut butter) and does not contain HFCS however contains more fat.

      The general rule is that babies were to be fed whole milk after getting off formula because they need fat to develop, but now they are saying you shouldn’t feed whole milk to kids and babies because they will get fat too fast off it and they get enough fat from other sources to develop.

      Makes me want to have kids even less, not that I was planning to have any in the first place, knowing that companies are shoving commercialized formulas full of chemicals in the faces of the youngest who are not able to consume other foods. I guess we must pump corn syrup into a child’s body from day 1 or else they will not develop a taste for the sugary crap we must feed them for the rest of their lives so that the marketers and big corporations can profit off us.

  38. thelion says:

    I would like to point out that it is generally accepted that BMI is flawed.

  39. esc27 says:

    It is the people who religiously embrace the BMI scale who are deluded. The levels chosen for overweight and obese are essentially arbitrary and have been changed many times over the last few decades.
    In the 1980’s a BMI of ~27.8 was considered the threshold for overweight among men. Now it is 25. For a 6ft male that is ~20 pounds. I wonder how many of those in “denial” are within that 20lb window.

  40. u1itn0w2day says:

    Americans are lazy period and they are ignorant to the physical sciences of fitness. Burn more calories than you take in is one of them. Too many people don’t realize that fitness is part of your DAILY routine, not for 3 months after New Years day. I know people who went to the mall and think they got their exercise for the week.

  41. horns says:

    BMI isn’t accurate though. I’m a big guy with a huge chest and broad shoulders and my BMI says I am fat. I assure you I am not.

  42. carlathecommander says:

    I used to grossly overestimate exercise and underestimate food. I’d walk .5 mile to get a bagel with cream cheese then think they cancelled each other out.

    I’d get a chicken Whopper at Burger King with king size fries because it was ‘healthier’ than a beef Whopper. After losing 65lbs I now know out outrageous those thoughts were, but I really didn’t know any better.

    • Brontide says:

      Magical thinking abound when it comes to weight, but the article even states the obvious…

      “Only a small percentage are doing what clinical studies and diet experts have found to be important for maintaining a healthy weight: Weighing themselves most or every day (22 percent), and tracking calories (15 percent).”

      It’s all about the calories in the end and most people just don’t want to face the fact that they can’t eat as much *forever* to keep the weight off.

  43. three says:

    some of the comments in this thread pretty much confirm what’s said in the article…

    • Brontide says:

      90% of Americans think they are “above average” and 95% of parents believe their children are not the trouble makers.

      Hey, at least fewer women are visualizing themselves as fat when they are not. With so many fat friends to choose from they can be the skinny chick with so much less effort!

  44. Graidan says:

    Over and over, people keep saying that BMI is wrong, bad, etc. You’re being clueless and/or disingenuous here. BMI is not bad, inaccurate, or wrong – there are high incidents of serious health issues with higher BMI, and there are more people with higher BMI now that there have been. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every high BMI person is unhealthy at the moment – that’s just basic statistics.

    An entirely separate issue: the height/weight charts that propose to determine your BMI are utter hoohah. A bunch of commenters are commenting on this, but mistaking it for BMI as a whole, and it’s not the same thing at all. I agree with criticisms of the ht/wt charts – they don’t take muscle into account at all, meaning me and my cyclists legs were “obese” in high school, even though I also had a six-pack. I’m considerably less skinny nowadays, but the muscle is still there, and the height weight charts say I’m worse off BMI wise than I actually am.

  45. PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

    From April to the end of September of 2010, I lost 54 pounds (went from 252.2 to 198.4). I did this by cutting out all pop/soda (switched to Pepsi Max, don’t care if it still has some bad stuff in it, let me live dammit!), substituted things like baked chicken breasts for frozen pizzas, and joined my local Athletic Club. It costs me $76 a month, but that price gives me the incentive to get my moneys worth (plus it’s less money I have to spend on fast food).

  46. duncanblackthorne says:

    “90% healthy”? Highly doubtful. Most people have no idea what “healthy” is, simply because they have no idea (or inclination, for that matter) to know how many calories they’re eating, let alone the macronutrient content or even the basic ingredients of what they’re eating. I’m an endurance athlete, and keep scrupulous track every day of what I’m eating, how much, and what nutritional balance, and I’m in control of my weight. That being said, what I do would drive the average person mad; they wouldn’t stick with it, they don’t have a strong enough reason or desire to do so. Therefore they have no idea what they’re putting in their bodies, really. In order for Americans to get control of their health and body fat, a general paradigm shift is going to be necessary.

  47. u1itn0w2day says:

    This article or study is part of the problem in it is just one of many that lead people to believe that they can control health through diet alone which is false. You might fair a little better with a proper diet than someone who doesn’t watch theirs but unless diet is used in combination with exercise a ‘proper diet’ is often irrelevant unless allergic or a food is flat out toxic/dangerous to you.

    I know people who watch food content including salt,calories,fat etc and still on high bp medicine. Their condition started after they stopped walking their dog on a DAILY basis. Until then they had ZERO problems with high bp. They go long periods without walks or exercise period and wonder why they get colds, aches, pains and fatigued alot easier during these inactive periods and yet they still stare at labels and turn food preperation into a Steven Speilberg production.

    It’s studies like these that give people false hope of better living/fitness through diet alone.

  48. supersarah says:

    Obvious

  49. Smultronstallet says:

    BMI calculators are so inaccurate. I’m 5’5 and 112, which is one tenth away from being considered “underweight.” In the real world, I still have some curves and don’t look malnourished.

  50. WeirdJedi says:

    There wouldn’t be a problem if my mom would stop buying enough food to last us a whole month, cook large quantities enough to have leftovers for a week, complain when food isn’t eaten up before they go bad, leave cookies and candy in plain sight, and buy cans of pop in bulk…