Apparently, Americans are in weight-gain denial.
Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discovered that while U.S. obesity rates are rising, Americans tend to say they’ve lost weight.
Researchers used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is a yearly cross-sectional survey of adults in the U.S., to compare self-reported changes in body weight between 2008 and 2009 – a time when obesity increased in the U.S.
More than 775,000 people were surveyed in the years analyzed and 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.
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 participants told surveyors they had lost weight in the previous year.
Based on the weights they reported, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. would have declined from 2008 and 2009. Instead, it inched upward, increasing from 26 percent to 26.5 percent.
The researchers also concluded that men did a worse job estimating their own weight changes than woman, and older adults were less attuned to their weight changes than young adults.
The research findings will be published in an article — “In denial: misperceptions of weight change among adults in the United States” — in the August edition of Preventive Medicine.
“If people aren’t in touch with their weight and changes in their weight over time, they might not be motivated to lose weight,” said Dr. Catherine Wetmore, lead author of the paper, in a news release.
“Misreporting of weight gains and losses also had policy implications,” she said. “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 U.S.”