I Ain't Heavy, I'm His Brother | Adweek I Ain't Heavy, I'm His Brother | Adweek
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I Ain't Heavy, I'm His Brother

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This is one of those bad-news, worse-news stories. A new Gallup survey finds 40 percent of Americans confessing they're overweight—6 percent "very overweight" and 34 percent "somewhat" so. As alarming as those numbers may sound, they understate the problem. Indeed, they indicate millions of Americans have passed into denial about the matter.Calculating the Body Mass Index scores of respondents to an earlier survey (which asked people to give their height and weight), Gallup calculated that 57 percent were overweight, including 19 percent who were obese. Similarly, the federal government estimates that about 60 percent of adults are overweight, including one in four who are obese. Unless a lot of people lost a lot of weight while the Surgeon General wasn't looking, people must be redefining the terms in ways that let themselves off the hook. Popular wisdom says our society is fixated on weight loss. Unfortunately, the fixation may be common among people who aren't in dire need of shedding pounds, while those with real weight problems have stopped acknowledging it. This possibility gains support from another of Gallup's findings: Despite ample evidence that weights have risen during the past decade, the self-confessed incidence of excessive weight is actually lower than in a 1990 poll. Then, 7 percent said they were very overweight and 41 percent somewhat overweight. It's not as if people deny having gained some pounds. Asked how their weight has changed over the past five years, 10 percent of respondents said they've "gained a lot" and 34 percent said they've "gained a little." On the opposite end of the spectrum, 13 percent claimed to have "lost a little" and 8 percent said they'd "lost a lot." Conspicuous among the weight-gainers are people who've stopped smoking. Among current smokers and lifetime abstainers, just over one-third call themselves overweight. But 50 percent of ex-smokers put themselves in that category.