Morbid Weight Perceptions

A new study found that about a quarter of overweight women viewed themselves as “normal weight”, while 16% of average weight women felt that they were overweight. According to this article, “[the] survey found that 30 percent of adult Americans in the “overweight” class 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”

Sounds a little surprising to me, with all the messages about body weight in the media and eating disorders, I would have assumed that more women would have viewed themselves as heavier, but ok. It’s actually kind of nice, that women are not worrying about their weight.

What’s worrisome to me is the way that particular article presented the results. The tone was one of concern, that it is not healthy for women to underestimate their weight classification. The article states succinctly, “The problem, according to study lead author Mahbubur Rahman, is the ‘fattening of America,’ meaning that for some women, being overweight has become the norm.”

Yes, the fattening of America indeed.

Take a look at those numbers again. Most of the women weren’t saying they were underweight or ideal weight when they weren’t, they were simply using the wrong term. Is it really that much of a problem if an obese woman thinks she is over weight rather than obese? Or for a “morbidly obese” woman to think of herself as merely obese? (The term “morbidly obese” is of course itself a loaded term that many women, understandably, would want to avoid).

And look at the terms used in the article. The ideal weight range was classified as “normal size”. If, as the author suggests, there has been a “fattening of America”, than perhaps these women weren’t misrepresenting themselves at all, they were simply looking around them and noticing that they do, indeed, look like every one else around them.

The authors, both of the study and of the article, seem to think that it is a terrible thing that women think they are in a lower weight range than they are. I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s time for women to take a positive outlook on their bodies, and if it means telling themselves that they are overweight when really they are obese, I’ll take that.

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