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Rationalizing their way into a larger pants size



12,000 Americans participated in a telephone survey between January and March, 2006. Conducted by Thomson Medstat, a healthcare information solution company (Thomson Medstat Research Brief, "Lifestyle and Obesity"; July 2006), the respondents were asked their height and weight, then a number of lifestyle questions, including how often they exercised vigorously, ate fast food or snacked on sweets, and whether they thought their overall eating habits were healthy.

For the results of the survey, Thomson Medstat calculated each respondent's Body Mass Index and categorized that respondent as "underweight", "normal", "overweight", "obese", or "morbidly obese", then compared the survey answers from each of those five groups.

Of those who were normal weight, 45% said that they did not usually eat fast food at all, and only 19% ate fast food twice a week or more. 40% of overweight people, however, did not eat fast food, while a slightly larger percentage (20.1%) ate fast food twice or more per week. Almost one-third (28.7%) of morbidly obese people, however, ate fast food at least twice a week.

Survey respondents were also asked if they had participated in "vigorous physical activity" for 20 minutes or more and at least three times per week in the past month. 55.3% of the normal weight group said that they had, while slightly fewer (53.3%) of the overweight group had done so, and only 24.8% of the morbidly obese group.

Despite this self-reported evidence to the contrary, people still believed they were doing the right things: Over three-fourths of obese people (77.7%) characterized their eating habits as "very healthy" or "somewhat healthy", and 64.9% of the morbidly obese agreed. Only slightly more than one-third of the morbidly obese considered their eating habits "a little healthy" or "not healthy."

What this means for you:

It's easy to tell yourself that you're eating pretty well, but the numbers on the scale don't lie. Get your Body Mass Index, then keep a Food Diary (PDF format) and see where you fit in this survey. Then visit the Dr. Gourmet website for tips and resources to help you eat well and eat healthy.

First posted: August 8, 2006