As if there weren’t enough places to worry about getting fat, CNN now has an article letting us know that our assumptions about our own weight are wrong. Most Obese Moms, Kids Underestimate Their Weight. That’s a big statement with a broad reach. But the study the article discussed isn’t so broad. In fact, the study, presented at a recent American Heart Association conference, only included 222 participants, most of which were recruited through one health clinic. The participants were mostly Latino and, I assume, since they were from one urban area, are probably from a similar socioeconomic background. That’s some seriously limited data right there.
Still, the study found that a whopping 82% of obese women underestimated their weight. Limited participants or not, that’s a pretty shocking percentage. But is it accurate?
As obesity rates increase, researchers fear that being overweight is becoming the rule and not the exception. If people look around and see others who are heavier than they are, maybe they’re less likely to worry about the numbers on their own scale.
But how is that possible? There is health and wellness information everywhere and TV shows like Heavy and The Biggest Loser are really drawing attention to weight loss. Even if people in your neighborhood are overweight, we’re all still inundated by images of super-skinny celebrities on every magazine cover. If, despite having to look in the mirror every day and put on plus size clothes, obese people are still unaware of their weight maybe we should just point it out to them.
Because this idea is about as sensitive as the content of that article, here’s a suggestion: maybe we should just shout out every time we see someone who’s overweight?
“Hey, you! You’re fat!” After all, being overweight is kind of like exiting a public restroom with toilet paper stuck on your shoe — you’re completely unaware of it until someone points it out. Then, once we’re used to embarrassing all the overweight people, we can move on to everyone else with flaws. “Hey, your roots are showing.” “Those pants went out of style with MC Hammer.” “Your breath smells like an ash tray.” Maybe those people don’t know they have a problem, either.
There’s also the possibility that many people who are overweight are very aware of their weight problem. When I was young and broke, I used to take the bills I couldn’t pay and just shove them in a drawer. It didn’t mean I forgot they were there; I just couldn’t look at them or think about them. I was kind of an ostrich with my head in the financial sand, so to speak. I wonder if that’s the case for some people who struggle with weight — they know it, but don’t readily want to admit it or talk about it.
Or there’s the very real option that when people are asked about their weight for a study or article, they fudge the numbers a little. Regardless of what they estimate their actual weight to be.
Because here’s one thing I do know. When you’re uncomfortable with the truth of a certain situation, you’re not likely to share that information, even if you know it to be true. But that doesn’t mean you’re not conscious of what you’re doing. And overweight people have enough indicators in society that they are not the recommended weight without passive aggressive reminders like this.
(Photo: Mike Licht)