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Overweight? Obese? Or normal weight? Americans have hard time gauging their weight

New poll finds 30% of those overweight think they are normal size

NORWALK, Connecticut, USA (September 2, 2010) – For many Americans fat is the new "norm."  More and more people are unable to accurately describe themselves using their height-to-weight ratio – known as body mass index – the scale that determines levels of overweight and obesity, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found. 

The poll revealed that 30 percent of overweight people think they're actually normal size, 70 percent of obese people feel they are merely overweight, and 39 percent of morbidly obese people think they are overweight but not obese. That means fat may be becoming the new normal, raising the specter of increasing rates of health threats such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers."While there are some people who have body images in line with their actual BMI [body mass index], for many people they are not, and this may be where part of the problem lies," said Regina Corso, vice president of Harris Poll Solutions. "If they do not recognize the problem or don't recognize the severity of the problem, they are less likely to do something about it." Among other findings of the poll, conducted online Aug. 17-19 with 2,418 adults ages 18 and older:

  • Most respondents who felt they were heavier than they should be blamed lack of exercise as the main cause, with 52 percent of overweight people, 75 percent of obese people and 75 percent of morbidly obese people saying they didn't exercise enough. 
  • Food consumption was seen as the lesser of two culprits, with 36 percent of overweight respondents, 48 percent of obese respondents and 27 percent of those morbidly obese feeling they ate more than they "should in general."

  • "In the mindset of most Americans, they're not looking at this as a food problem as much as an exercise problem," Corso said. "Three out of five Americans overall are saying they don't exercise as much as they should."

    On the subject of weight-loss remedies, the poll found Americans deemed surgery the most effective method, followed by prescription drugs, then drugs and diet-food supplements obtained over-the-counter.

    "Americans like the quick fix and that's what they think the surgery is even though there are so many other things" that work, Corso said.  "The American public knows this but it's hard and it's something that they're not quite ready to do. This wake-up call still isn't ringing as loudly as it could."

    The complete findings of this Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll is available online here. HealthDay's news report is available here. Full data on the poll and its methodology are available at Harris Interactive.

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