Study: We Believe We're Losing Weight When We're Actually Gaining

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    Aug 06, 2012 11:45 PM GMT
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/08/study-we-believe-were-losing-weight-when-were-actually-gaining/260619/

    PROBLEM: Amid endless discussion about Americans are getting fatter, what weight loss strategies are actually effective, and the negative health effects associated with being overweight, obesity rates in the U.S. continue to climb. Are we getting the message? Do people obese people realize they're obese?

    METHODOLOGY: The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System is an annual survey that uses an independent cross-section of almost 400,000 U.S. adults to gather representative information about, among other things, the country's obesity rates. In 2008 and 2009, respondents were asked to report their current height and weight, along with how much they weighed one year prior to the study. Using this information to calculate Americans' average body mass index (those with a BMI of greater than 30 are considered obese), researchers at the University of Washington then compared what people thought happened -- the weight change reported by the 2009 respondents -- to what the data indicates actually occurred.

    RESULTS: About 4.4. million obese adults went missing in the gap between measured and reported weight loss. The popular consensus was that obesity rates in the U.S. decreased in the year being studied: if men were to be taken at their word, they would have shown a decrease in obesity prevalence of 2 percent. In reality, their obesity prevalence increased by .3 percent. Similarly, women reported a decrease of .9 percent, but actually observed an increase in obesity prevalence of .5 percent.

    Just as men were further off in their reported weight changes than were women, people over 50 also had a difficult time gauging their weight -- their reported weight gain was off by about 2 pounds. People diagnosed with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are often advised to control their weight through diet and exercise. They reported substantial weight losses, but were generally off by as many as 4 pounds.

    CONCLUSION: Americans misperceive, or are in denial about, their weight gain.

    IMPLICATIONS: "We didn't have the ability to look specifically at the reasons driving these discrepancies," said Dr. Catherine Wetmore, the lead author of the study. "Certainly vanity or optimism could be one, or it could be a real true lack of awareness about what is happening." Regardless of why this is happening, it's clear that the first step in fighting obesity is acceptance. If we believe we're losing weight when we actually aren't, our further health behaviors will be misinformed and potentially harmful.
  • HottJoe

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    Aug 07, 2012 12:12 AM GMT
    Nice article! I agree that there's a lack of personal awareness, especially among straight people.
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    Aug 07, 2012 1:04 AM GMT
    I agree that most people are in blissful denial about their weight. What confounds me about this article is that they're talking about a discrepancy of 2 to 4 pounds, which I think is almost insignificant.

    From my personal experience I would say some people underestimate their weight by about 10 or 20 pounds, sometimes more.

    Oddly enough, there's a very simple means to clear up any confusion. Bathroom scales have been around for a few decades now. It's just a matter of whether people are willing to use them or if they want to live in that blissful denial.
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    Aug 07, 2012 5:05 AM GMT
    I get tickled at people who say they've lost weight when they actually look bigger in the gut. icon_lol.gif
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    Aug 07, 2012 5:19 AM GMT
    Global_Citizen saidI agree that most people are in blissful denial about their weight. What confounds me about this article is that they're talking about a discrepancy of 2 to 4 pounds, which I think is almost insignificant.

    Have to agree. Never understood why we have scales at the gym where I can drink 2-3lbs just in water and protein shakes. Trainer: "because people expect us to have them. Why do we have machines I don't want to catch you using? Because people expect us to have all the machines."

    Miraculously, I reached down to 210lbs last Thursday. I've been at 213 ever since. Dehydration? Muscle gain from hitting the weights hard. Who knows.

    For me, 2 pounds can be a bowel movement.

    I tell people this because now I've been tapped as the weight-loss motivational coach for my friends. I can definitely identify with gaining a pound back... Jan 2010, I weighed 270.
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    Aug 07, 2012 9:05 AM GMT
    RobertF64 saidFor me, 2 pounds can be a bowel movement.
    You need to eat more. I've lost up to 3 lbs with one dump (weighing before and after just for giggles). icon_lol.gif