Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Why the Obese are in Denial of their Weight

Living in a Western society, it's hard to avoid the continual bombardment of  statistics regarding the obesity epidemic. The trouble is, as far as many of us are concerned, it’s all happening to someone else. Despite 24 percent of the UK population fitting into the ‘obesity’ classification, it seems only six percent believe they fall into that group.

Are we a nation of ostriches suffering from ‘burying our head in the sand’ syndrome or is it simply that we don’t know what obesity actually is?


A survey recently undertaken by YouGov for the magazine, Slimming World, found that three quarters of those who had an obese BMI did not believe their weight fit that category. However, 95 percent of them did want to lose weight, indicating they knew they were overweight to some extent. Similar findings from an earlier survey were reported in the Daily Telegraph.

However, it’s not just that we’re in denial of our weight. With an estimated 60.8 percent of the UK population classed as overweight, those carrying excess poundage are now seen as the norm and it’s only those who are severely or morbidly obese who stand out in a crowd. Using our friends, family and colleagues as a gauge to normal weight can be deeply misleading. If everyone around us is overweight or obese, it's easy to gain a false sense of normality. This can lead to us putting our health at risk.

There is also the dislike of the term ‘obese’. The Slimming World survey found that just over one in three people who were very overweight, felt that their weight problem was ‘the most important issue in life’ with half feeling ‘embarrassed’, ‘ashamed’, ‘disgusted’ and ‘trapped’. Being called ‘obese’ only intensified those feelings of guilt and shame. For many, denying their weight problem or believing that as long as everyone around them is getting larger, it doesn’t matter.

Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World’s Head of Nutrition and Research, says:

This worrying new data reveals the complex psychological issues associated with being overweight. Many people – including many health professionals – believe that managing weight is just about energy balance, and that people simply need to ‘eat less and exercise more’.

However, that approach can never work while so many people deny how severely their weight could be affecting their health by increasing their risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke or while they struggle with the emotional burden of being overweight, which can affect their confidence in their ability to make healthy lifestyle changes. As individuals, we need support to tackle the deep-rooted psychological issues around how we feel about our weight before we can begin to make those changes.

To work out whether or not you are obese can easily be done in several ways. (see this post for further information) This is generally achieved by working out your BMI, body fat percentage or simply measuring your waist. As a guide, women with more than 30 percent body fat and men with more than 25 percent body fat, are considered obese.

Because obesity poses such a threat to health, seeking advice from a doctor or health practitioner should always be the first point of call. They, in conjunction with a dietitian, should be able to help devise a suitable and safe weight loss plan.

© Diets and Calories 

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