Busted: We've been lying about our weight

August 1, 2012 

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has discovered our secret. We've been lying about our weight.

According to new research from the organization and the University of Washington, most Americans don’t know whether they are gaining or losing weight.

Are you surprised to learn that men did a worse job estimating their own weight changes than women? I'm not!

The study also showed that older adults were "less attuned to their weight changes than young adults."

The findings are being published in the article “In denial: misperceptions of weight change among adults in the United States” in the August edition of Preventive Medicine.

In a news release Dr. Catherine Wetmore, the lead author on the paper, is quoted as saying: “If people aren’t in touch with their weight and changes in their weight over time, they might not be motivated to lose weight. Misreporting of weight gains and losses also has policy implications. If we had relied on the reported data about weight change between 2008 and 2009, we would have undercounted approximately 4.4 million obese adults in the US.”

Good thing they don't trust us, huh!

The researchers found that, on average, American adults gained weight over the study period – because the reported weights increased between the 2008 and 2009 surveys – but the 2009 study participants told surveyors that they had lost weight during the previous year. Based on the weights they reported, the prevalence of obesity in the US would have declined from 2008 to 2009. Instead, the prevalence of obesity inched upward from 26 percent to 26.5 percent, and average weight increased by about one pound per person between 2008 and 2009.

“It’s very popular right now to talk about the underlying environmental causes of obesity, whether it’s too much fast food or not enough parks,” Dr. Wetmore said in the news release. “While we know that the environment definitely plays a role, these results show that we need to do a better job helping people to be aware of what’s going on with their own bodies.”

For this study, Dr. Wetmore and IHME Professor Ali Mokdad compared self-reported changes in body weight between 2008 and 2009. They used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a yearly cross-sectional survey of adults in the US designed to monitor leading risk factors for morbidity and mortality nationwide. More than 775,000 people were surveyed in the years analyzed, and they were asked multiple questions about their weight, including how much they weighed on the day of their interview and how much they weighed one year prior to their interview.

For more information, visit healthmetricsandevaluation.org.

So what are we going to do about this? Well, the nutrition information is the same. Eat more vegetables, fresh fruits, lean proteins and fiber-rich grains and eat fewer processed food, desserts, creamy dressings and sauces. Skip fried and fast food. Eat smaller portions. And start exercising. Walk, run, jog, do jumping jacks... just get yourself moving for as many minutes a day as you can. Good luck!

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