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Originally published March 6 2010

Majority of Obese People Fail to Recognize Their Own Obesity

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Nearly three-quarters of obese adults do not consider themselves obese, according to a poll carried out by YouGov for Slimming World.

"In my view there is a very clear tendency for individuals with obesity to feel that they do not stand out from the crowd," says Jonathan Pinkney, of the Association for the Study of Obesity.

Researchers interviewed 2,000 people about their height, weight and perception of their size and diet. While only 7 percent of those interviewed classified themselves as "obese," in fact more than 25 percent of them fell into that category.

Obesity is commonly defined as having a body mass index above 30. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by dividing a person's mass in kilograms by the square of their height in meters. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, while a BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight.

Health professionals believe that as more of the population becomes overweight and obese, people's perception of normal changes.

"If some 4 percent of women now have a BMI of more than 40, then arguably you need this sort of BMI to begin to look obviously obese when you walk down the street," Pinkney said. "That may be one reason why self-reported obesity underestimates its true prevalence."

Even media coverage of the obesity epidemic contributes to the problem, according to Krystyna Matyka of the University of Warwick Medical School. By focusing on the largest of the large, the media make the majority of the obese seem small by comparison.

"If you see people with BMI of over 50, say, and you have a BMI of 40 then you may well think you aren't too bad," Matyka said.

A number of recent studies have shown that parents also tend to underestimate the obesity of their children. Complicating this problem is the stigma still associated with being overweight, said Susan Jebb of the Medical Research Council.

"All the discussion around overweight children is so negative that it is not surprising parents find it difficult to acknowledge there is a problem," she said. "It's a defense mechanism."

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