Obesity Denial and Perceptions

Obesity Perceptions and Denial

  • Obesity has now replaced smoking as the foremost preventable cause of death among Americans.
  • The vast majority of the Americans who are overweight or obese do not consider themselves to be so or underestimate their weight problem according to a Harris Interactive/Health Day survey 2010.
  • 30 percent of overweight (BMI 25 -30) Americans believed themselves to be of normal weight, while 70 percent of the obese (BMI >30) felt they were simply overweight.
  • Even worse, 60% of the morbidly obese (BMI>40) considered themselves as obese, while another 39 percent considered themselves merely overweight.
  • These findings may help to explain why overweight and obesity rates in the United States continue to go up, since those who fail to recognize the problem are unlikely to confront it.
  • These figures are likely to be much higher for Asian Indians many of whom are unaware of the specific lower cutpoints for overweight (BMI >23) and obesity (BMI>25) for them.
  • A recent  Pakistani study found 52 % of overweight and 73% of obese people thought they were normal weight.1
  • Most overweight and obese Americans blamed sloth, rather than poor eating habits, for their predicament. Food appeared to be a lesser culprit than lack of exercise in people’s minds.
  • Only a minority of the obese and morbidly obese felt that they ate more than they should and blamed on eating the wrong kind of food rather than the wrong amount of food.
  • Only a minority felt that lifestyle interventions such as reduced food intake and increased physical activity are the real solution to the epidemic of obesity.


1. Bhanji S, Khuwaja AK, Siddiqui F, Azam I, Kazmi K. Underestimation of weight and its associated factors among overweight and obese adults in Pakistan: a cross sectional study. BMC Public Health. May 23 2011;11(1):363.



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