The good news is that Americans have realized what public health experts have been saying for years — obesity is a huge problem leading to a myriad of negative health outcomes. The not-so-great news is that many aren’t realistic about their own body weight. according to a recent survey by NORC (pronounced N-O-R-C), at the University of Chicago, in collaboration with the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS).
The survey included about 1,500 adults over the age of 18. They were queried in person, by phone, and on the internet, and the sample was weighted to represent the national distribution of ethnic groups, ages and genders. Participants gave their weight and height, and investigators used those data to determine their body mass indices (BMIs — weight in kgm divided by height in meters2).
According to their calculated BMIs, about one third of respondents were normal weight, 29 percent were overweight, and 35 percent were obese. When asked to define themselves as to their weight status, the overwhelming majority of those classified as obese said they were overweight — which of course is correct. But nearly half (47 percent) of those who fell into the obese category said they were only overweight. And 9 percent said they were of normal weight. Men were more likely than women to underestimate their weight classification.
While this may seem a minor issue, it really isn’t, because 57 percent of those whose self-classification were incorrect were less likely to speak to a doctor about their situation. In contrast, 76 percent of those who correctly identified themselves as obese would speak to a doctor.
The survey also assessed people’s estimation of the causes of obesity as either lifestyle choices, or a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors. Those in the former group were less likely to speak to a doctor about their weight (35 percent) than were the latter (46 percent).