Health & Fitness Column

A flawed perception of healthy body weight

By John Taylor | Nov 27, 2012
Photo by: John Taylor

As the American obesity rate increases, the notion of the ideal healthy body weight gets amplified, a new Gallup poll found.
The poll suggests the average adult male now weighs 176 pounds, up 15 pounds since Gallup started tracking weight in 1990.
“Americans appear to be slowly shifting to higher weights, adjusting their expectations of what is ideal over time, mirroring the increase in actual weight,” a Gallup report representative stated in a press releases. “Americans’ ideal weight today is the highest on record. And more adults than ever — 60 percent — say their weight is about right, despite the number of Americans who are overweight or obese remaining near an all-time high.”
According to new estimates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 36 percent of American adults are obese, and are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers.
The study also found that the average perceived ideal health body weight for women was 140 pounds, up 11 pounds since 1990. However, the average actual weight for women was 156, up 14 pounds since the original 1990 study.
“These trends suggest that as Americans have grown heavier overall, their concept of what their ideal weight is has been adjusted upward as well,” the Gallup report said.
While 65 percent of subjects in the study stated they exceeded their ideal weight, only 54 percent said they would like to lose weight and only 25 percent said they were “seriously trying,” according to the Gallop press release.
“Underscoring Americans’ weight denial is the relatively low 25 percent who say they are seriously trying to lose weight,” the report said, “much lower than the percentage who are above their ideal weight or say they would like to lose weight.”
So in other words, as our society gets heavier, the American perception regarding the ideal body type changes.
Does anybody else see the problem with this? When did this phenomenon happen? I didn’t get this memo.
Say what you will about a person’s perceptions of a healthy body weight, but we all know if we need to lose a few pounds ... or a lot of pounds. The problem becomes if it there are any societal consequences for living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Obviously people are not scared to gain weight due to the ill-health effects, and if their body size is accepted by society, what else can motivate obese individuals to lose weight?
I guess it comes down to their quality of life, and if a person is happy with the activities their body allows them to do. Yes, there are those who blame genetics or a medical condition on their lack of weight loss success, but in a 2009 study published by the National Institutes of Health, only 4.7 percent of the total American obese population has a metabolic condition that causes weight gain. In essence, those types of people aren’t as common as people would like to think.
If you are overweight, and you decide you want to be able to run a 5K, mud run, or complete a boot camp class, there are public health officials that are available to help you reach your health-related goals. And unlike a pricey personal trainer or nutritionalist,  public health professionals are free.

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