STUDY: 25% of Overweight Women Don't Think They're Overweight
By Jeany Miller
From the Diary of a Fat Woman Blog Series
I recently read that some overweight women do not see themselves as such, but believe they’re smaller than they actually are. In fact, a 2010 study revealed that almost 25 percent of young women who are overweight perceive themselves as being normal weight. Although the study looked mostly at low-income women attending public health clinics in Texas, the findings mirror other studies in different populations. One earlier survey, for instance, found 30 percent of overweight adults believed they were actually normal size, while 70 percent of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, 39 percent considered themselves merely overweight.
Researchers believe the problem is that for some women, being overweight has become the norm. I can’t speak for everybody, but for me, this hypothesis is extremely insulting.
I don’t think being overweight is “normal” for anybody, but instead some people accept themselves for who they are and stop trying to conform to "ideal" body images. The truth is that regardless of diet and exercise, not every female in this world will be a size four. Moreover, to ridicule those who are comfortable in their own skin is like throwing cold water on somebody and yelling, “Hey, you don’t look like the rest of us, so the world has every right to shun you.”
I understand perfectly that society thinks only thin folks are healthy, and the underlying concern is that overweight people are at greater risk for diabetes and heart disease.But not all overweight individuals are unhealthy, a fact confirmed by science.
In a 2011 study from Canada, researchers found that people who had only mild physical, psychological or physiological impairments – or none at all – and who had a higher body weight in early childhood were happier with their bodies and had attempted to lose weight less frequently than those who were unhappy with their weight.
Surprisingly, these people were also found to be less likely to die from cardiovascular causes such as strokes, heart attacks and heart failures than individuals of “normal” weight in early childhood. Even more surprising to researchers, these individuals were more likely to be physically active and consume healthy diets consisting of fruits and vegetables. As such, the researchers believe these findings challenge the idea that all obese people need to lose weight.
This information is quite gratifying, because it confirms what I’ve experienced in my lifetime.
To illustrate, I once worked with a man who had the body of an Olympic athlete. He ran along the beach every day, barefoot in the sand with lake water lapping over his feet. He ate salad for lunch, fruit for snacks and grilled fish for supper. Drinking and smoking weren’t even in his vocabulary, much less components of his life.
In other words, my co-worker was a model of healthy living. Then he suffered a heart attack at age 50, despite doing everything right. Although he recovered, I remember thinking to myself, “How could this be? He was physically fit and ate only the best foods. He never should have had a heart attack.”
The truth, however, is that we’re all susceptible to health complications. No person, regardless of weight, is exempt from the perils of mortality. And telling people they’re fatter than they think isn’t a solution. Researchers in the 2010 study suggest mistaken notions of one’s weight status can have implications for behavior, and perhaps health. For example, women who were overweight,but thought they were normal size were less likely to try to lose any excess weight by dieting or other means.
I think that we should commend people, men and women alike, who are comfortable with themselves and not striving to keep up with the latest fad diet. I think we should applaud their confidence and thank them for taking a stand.
I think more studies should be performed to measure happiness rather than waist size, for in the end, that’s all we can really hope for in life: happiness.
Photo Credit: ni_mykon