Many Americans In Denial About Gaining Weight, Researchers Observe

Obesity is a growing epidemic in America, with average weight on a steady increase as diets become more caloric and processed and work becomes ever more sedentary — but it appears denial is also on the rise, mainly in relation to weight issues.

Obesity is a serious health risk in the US, perhaps one of the most prevalent issues that affects the health of Americans overall. But a net weight increase has also seemingly brought alongside it another, related issue — inability to properly gauge weight gain.

Research was undertaken at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and the data indicates that while many Americans are unhealthily gaining weight, many of those people may not realize how serious the problem has become.

Prevalence of obesity increased during the time the data was collected (from 26 to 26.5 percent) between 2008 and 2009, with an average increase of one pound in weight. But those studied did not perceive a change in weight, indicating that lack of awareness over weight gain may be part of the problem exacerbating the growing obesity issue.

In a news release about the study on weight gain and denial, IHME professor Ali Mokdad indicated that even small increases can be a problem due to the fact they snowball:

“We all know on some level that people can be dishonest about their weight… But now we know that they can be misreporting annual changes in their weight, to the extent of more than 2 pounds per year among adults over the age of 50, or more than 4 pounds per year among those with diabetes. On average, American adults were off by about a pound, which, over time, can really add up and have a significant health impact.”

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Lenox Hill Hospital nutritionist Sharon Zarabi cites an example of behaviors that can lead to creeping weight gain and subsequent denial:

“We live in a toxic environment with a plethora of food choices that are high in simple sugars and carbohydrates… The average person usually underestimates their caloric intake due to the fact that our super size portions have become acceptable. Want to grab a 32-ounce soda at the movie theater with you medium-sized popcorn? Right there you just added almost 900 empty calories.”

Zarabi may have engaged in a bit of what is known as “fat shaming” by many, when she added that “many people are in denial about their weight and as obesity rates rise, larger body frames are becoming more socially acceptable.” Zarabi explained that people are “taking less personal responsibility and use the excuse of work hours, stress, and food availability as obstacles to managing their health.”

The study on obesity, weight gain and denial was published in the August issue of Preventive Medicine.