How Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic Harms Public Health

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I've started blogging over at Huffington Post Healthy Living, where twice a month I'll write about the latest headlines in nutrition and weight loss.

This week I'm addressing the issue of downplaying the severity of the obesity epidemic in the media. I'd love it if you could read the blog and let me know what you think:

Why Downplaying the Obesity Epidemic, Even in a Single Story, is Hazardous to Public Health

What did you think about the blog?

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while the motives may be good, calling it a "war on obesity" as many do, makes the overweight person the embodiment of the "enemy" and many are forced to suffer shame, emotional pain, rude remarks and isolation because of it. It still remains the ONLY ACCEPTABLE FORM OF DISCRIMINATION. Report
Becky wrote this blog based on, in my professional opinion, very outdated information. The obesity rates in the US essentially leveled off back in 1999. To prove it, go to this 2012 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association: JAMA, February 1, 2012—Vol 307, No. 5, and scroll down to the graph (or read the abstract). In addition, weight truly is nothing other than a confounding variable until you reach a BMI in the range of 38-40. What is consistent in the research is that physical activity mitigates the risks associated with weight. Want to see that research? It's here: Relationship Between Low Cardiorespiratory Fitness and Mortality in Normal-Weight, Overweight, and Obese Men
Ming Wei, MD, MPH; James B. Kampert, PhD; Carolyn E. Barlow, MS; Milton Z. Nichaman, MD, ScD; Larry W. Gibbons, MD, MPH; Ralph S. Paffenbarger, Jr, MD, DrPH; Steven N. Blair, PED
JAMA. 1999;282(16):1547-1553. doi:10.1001/jama.282.16.1547.

Finally, there have been SIX longitudenal studies on weight loss (that were legit peer-reviewed studies). EVERY single one of them found what the NIH summarized as: 1/3 to 2/3 of weight is regained within one year and almost all is regained by year 5. In addition,
1/3 to 2/3 of dieters regain more weight than was lost on their diets (Mann et al, 2005)

So. If you're looking at research on weight loss that doesn't go out five years, you're looking at incomplete data. If you think weight loss improves your health more than simple exercise and healthy eating (which, hello, do NOT always lead to weight loss, as anyone on Spark who has gone to bed HUNGRY can attest), then you're barking up the wrong tree.

The truth is, the hyper- focus on body weight is simply misguided. Why not focus on behaviors that have been shown to improve our health in the long term? The focus on eating healthy, REAL, whole foods, the focus on physical activity, and the focus on eating according to internal hunger and satiety cues all lead to better LDL cholesterol, glucose tolerance, blood pressure and yes, longevity, regardless of BMI (as cited in the comment below).

To the commenter who said the comments here were better than the article: I disagree. Most of the comments here are based on "common knowledge," which is simply unfounded and unscientific.

Love your body, treat it well, stop counting and tracking and start learning to be connected to your body's needs so that you begin to overfeed yourself less. Move in a way that is sustainable and pleasurable. Respect your body, no matter what its size, and please, do your best to tune out the rhetoric of our thin-obsessed culture.

Deborah McCafferty, MS, RD
Instructor of Clincial Nutriton, CSU, Chico
Nutrition Therapist at The Body Connection

P.S. The report of the UC Davis study that she cited is preliminary research, based on a small sample size and the correlation of chemerin levels, gluteal fat and metabolic syndrome, not causation between gluteal fat and metabolic syndrome. It's interesting preliminary research.

As we know obesity is a very serious epidemic that threatens the health of millions of people in the United States. Becky Hand refocuses the severity of the epidemic at hand with supporting evidence about where and how information on obesity is derived from. I agree with Hand on her points about using the BMI scale to determine whether a person is healthy or not and deciding if health care treatment is necessary for each individual. According to a nutrition journal written by Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor who, also support that the BMI scale is not efficient in scaling out an individual’s health, state that, “ Indeed, the most comprehensive review of the research pooled data for over 350,000 subjects from 26 studies and found overweight to be associated with greater longevity than normal weight.”(Bacon and Aphramor 5) I mention this quote because Hand briefly talks about longevity in relation to overweight or obese people’s health care treatment. Again I agree with Hand on her claim about the overweight or obese people getting proper health care in order to extend the years of a person’s life. Another fact Bacon and Aphramor mention, “ The most recent analysis, published in the New England

Journal of Medicine, concluded that overweight was associated with increased risk, but only

arrived at this conclusion after restricting the analysis by excluding 78 percent of the deaths.” (Bacon and Aphramor 5) Overall Hand makes it a good point that we should not be swindled by information provided by analysis for becoming healthy instead we need to look at our personal goals and abilities in attaining those goals.

Bacon, Linda, and Lucy Aphramor. "Weight Science:Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift." (2011): 5. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. Report
Difficult issue and hard to solve. Report
I am running into more and more "overweight" people who are comfortable being fat, eating whatever they want, and not caring how it will effect them later in life. There is very much an attitude of "live for today, for tomarrow may not come". I don't know if it is because of the mayan apocolypes scare, or the rate of natural disasters taking place. I am fearful of just how fat I could get if my lifestyle were left unchecked. Daily vigilance of overindulgence, or even if I've had a mindful eating day is how I continue toward my goal. Because I am certain that without the vigilance, I could be one of those people having a wall knocked down to wheel me on to a flatbed. That would be horrifying, yet we are seeing it happen. We are seeing the people who are reaching 500, 600, even more and we just stare. Where does it end? I have packed on some lbs following several pregnancies and I am unhappy with the 80lbs I have put on. Yet I get criticized for wanting to take it off being told "I'm not THAT fat." "You don't look like you have had 7 children." "There's always later to deal with that." It is crazy. Thank you for addressing the current indifference toward obesity. It should be humilitating to get cut out of a house, or not fit on a plane seat, or to break a chair in public, or not fit in the booth, or not fit in the theater seat, or not fit in "regular" clothing, or not be able to find a swimsuit, or not climb 10 steps...... Report
I liked the article and think she is right on. I am a retired nurse who has seen what obesity can lead too. A large portion of the patients in the hospital regardless of their admission diagnosis had underlying health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. That is the main reason I decided to change my eating habits, get the extra weight off and get moving. Report
I've been hearing this (protective nature of overweight) for a few years. In an issue of Scientific American back in '08 I think they had a big article about this. And it was pointed out that a lot of people get skinny before they die. Things like cancer, AIDS, and other wasting illnesses can lead to significant weight loss. Followed by death. Unless these patients are weeded out of the study, the study is useless. Unfortunately it's unclear if they were included or not.

I believe that having a lower body fat % is healthier than having a higher one. But having very low lean body mass (meaning that your muscles, bones, and organs have wasted away) is obviously associated with misery, pain, death, and disaster all around. Report
great blog, the other day there was an article here about a doc who wanted to attach a social stigma to being overweight in an effort into shaming people about their weight. While I believe that is unkind and not the way to reach people, I agree that we have to stop making it "okay" to be overweight and as you say, downplay the obesity epidemic. Report
SOOOO....this is a site dedicated to help people get healthier. People reading and commenting are or have been overweight to some degree. This is bound to tug at some strong emotions.

I would urge everyone to stop, take a deep breath, and re-read as objectively as possible.

The article brings to light a recent CORRELATORY study that crunches data obtained from previous studies Let me just state something here: correlation does NOT equal causation. Does this mean this study is worthless? No. It means someone correlated being somewhat overweight with living somewhat longer. OK. So to infer any meaning out of this, other studies need to be conducted to look specifically at this issue and trying to control for any other factors that might skew the data.

In the meantime: anyone reading about this study needs to read carefully and think for themselves. If these results are able to be replicated, then it may re-define what the medical field considers a healthy weight or BMI to be. Wow! That's huge. But let's not kid ourselves: that change would not be a big change. For people who carry more than 15 pounds or so over the current recommendations it means nothing: we're still striving to get there and we're way over here.

Are articles like this giving people an excuse to not work on being healthier? Maybe, but then again, I think people who are looking for an excuse will find one no matter what.

I'm not sure this is the right population to evaluate this blog: after all, we're here because we want to do better. Report
I'll be honest. I was more interested in reading this article after being shocked by all the negative feedback in the comments. I kind of feel like a few people who commented might have read a paragraph or two and just scanned the rest of the article. I don't think the author was too hard on the readers; I don't think she's saying that overweight people should just give it all up and die; I don't think she was telling people that only serious athletes need apply. I certainly don't get the feeling that she is sharing her political views...

(Speaking of political views and news, I heard on the radio this morning that first Lady Michelle Obama is quietly abandoning her "Let's Get Moving" campaign... which was my favorite thing about her!)

I do think the media skews reports and studies to more strongly affect the public's opinions and beliefs, and I thought that was the main message in this article. I would have expected readers here on, who are, theoretically, in search of greater health in any size, might have caught that. I've been fighting weight gain for about 20 years, and I think we all need to be as educated as possible about our health. Whether you believe the JAMA report, Becky Hand, Jamie Oliver, or the makers of Sensa, it shouldn't be hard to see that too many of us are at least overweight, and that if we don't start setting better examples for our children, they'll have even harder struggles with it than we do.

I just know I don't want to end up like the humans on Wall-E before we turn things around... and I believe that if we don't think obesity is downplayed, then that is the ship we're on. Report
this is a fantastic, well written article touching on many points & opening many options; great job Report
I have gone back over this article and have decided that all the comments are much better than the article itself. Report
There is some confusion to be had whenever articles talk about "a few extra pounds" and "obesity" in the same breath. The two are vastly different.

Obesity and near-obesity are a serious health issue, but the evidence about carrying a handful of extra weight is equivocal at best, inconclusive at worst. If I"should" weigh 180 and I weigh 185, that's not a big deal; if I weigh 220, that is a big deal.

I just wish editors would clarify this in the headline, not just in an article, no matter how well-written it is (and this is a well-written article). Report
Every article on this subject says the same thing over and over. What we fail to write about is what the cause is. FDA lack of intelligence. Our society is too busy watching TV and eating processed foods that the FDA says its okay to eat. GMOs in our foods and chemicals in our foods are a huge problem. We need to get back to eating what is grown naturally on the planet. Real food. Not something out of a box. AND THIS INCLUDES LEAN CUISINE AND WEIGHT WATCHERS PREPARED FOOD PEOPLE!!!!!!!! Report
The obesity epidemic that is affecting our nation is not just a matter of quality of life or longevity for the obese individual but the effect it has on every one as a whole. When hospitals have to retro fit doorways, bathrooms and other areas of hospitals to fit larger sized people it is a cost that is passed on to everyone. When people have health issues that are preventable and require perpetual treatment that go beyond the premiums paid by the overweight and obese, these costs are passed on to everyone in the sense of higher premiums and higher deducibles. When an RN has to worry about his or own safety because his or her patient who may be as much as twice is or her own weight has to be moved, that is an issue that affects everyone in workman compensation and sick leave. When people have to miss work because of weight related health issues, it taxes the employer as well as fellow employees who are burdened with their work load. When airlines have to remove rows of seats in airplanes, those fares are increased on everyone. When our children are raised obese what happens to our future law enforcement and military and therefore the future safety of our neighborhoods and national security. When stadiums have to make bigger seats and therefore accomodate less people in the stadiums, those costs are passed on to all. When portable toilet companies are having to secure the portable toilets with steel rods so they don't fall when over weight and obese people sit on the toilets,those costs are passed on to all. I once was obese and when it began affecting my health and I was on more than nine medications, it affected my wallet, my job, and my family. I have maintained a healthy weight and body fat count for 10 years and not without struggle. When my latest job included a 50 hour work week not including the 3 hour roundtrip commute and I put on 5 lbs I immediately did something about it. I workout for an hour 5 days a week. I wake up at 4:30 am and I'm in the gym by 5:00 am during the week days and during the week days I'm flexible. I have eliminated 90% of my medications and my asthma and chronic migraines are in control. I have no more joint pain. I have no back pain. I can walk up a flight a stairs without gasping for air. I watch everything that goes into my mouth. I have to not only because of weight but also because the junk we eat affects chronic illnesses. Does this make me better than anyone else? No, but like so many others who are commited to a healty lifestyle, I am just more disciplined and self respecting. I am not a burden on my family nor on society. I can now sit in public transportation and use only one seat. And like so many others, my determination to be healthy has not been rewarded. My health premiums have not decreased because of my healthy lifestyle. My co-pay and deductible have not decreased and in fact have increased because of preventable diseases that people don't take responsibilty for and change the lifestyle that brought them into the mess they are in. Let's not discuss genetics as that plays a small part of the obesity issue. And there are many people who have genetic issues that still take responsiblity for their own actions. We did not have an obesity issue 100 years ago and it takes thousands of years of evolution to occur before mankind as a whole is affected. No other country has the obesity issue like we do. Harsh words but this comes from someone who has struggeled with weight for a lifetime. It's not easy maintaining but for the best of my family and myself it is worth the fight. Report
I believe that mixed messages and competing opinions contributes the confusion of a many people who are struggling with their weight as a health issue. Even the responses to this blog demonstrate that there is no clear path thar one should follow to get or stay healthy. Part of that is to be expected. Heredity, expectations and body composition lead to different healthy weight standards for each of us. I was also disappointed by the report of that study. I do think that people a little over their BMI can be very healthy. Part of that is the well acknowledged fact that the BMI is not accurate for everyone, especially at the tipping points. But, I think the report seemed to indicate that in general being overweight is not so bad and hence be a little obese is probably not so bad either. You certainly hit a number of sore spots when you suggested quality of life was more important than length of life. It is a cold hard fact that health care costs are bankupting our society. Money that should be spent to keep people healthy is instead being spent to treat the symptoms of people who allow their health to be undermined by eating habits that not only add way to many poinds but rob their bodies of the nutrients their body needs to stay healthy. I understand that their is a huge issue in our society of over weight people being treated badly. But, that is a seperate issue from the message to overweight people that they can and should make efforts to be healthier to imrove their life for themselves, not just socient. Report
I think that what we need are healthy and balanced conversations about weight within the context of health. I am not sure that I agree that acknowledging that there is no ideal body weight for everyone is somehow diminishing the constant messages that we get about how bad it is to be overweight. When every other commercial and radio ad is a diet commercial and the diet industry is raking in billions I don't think we have to fear that the obesity message is not getting out there. I think that what we have to fear are any messages that are not based first and foremost in our health. Many of the anti-obesity messages are more image based than health based and so are just as dangerous. I do not think it is a bad thing for a person who does not fit within a particular body ideal not to obsess over his/her weight and hate him/herself because of it. The constant message that we get from the media is that we are too this, not enough of that so we need to run out and buy this product or undergo that surgery. What if rather than focusing on weight we focused on health? How might that shift the conversation? That would allow for us to have more balanced dialogues about staying focused on making healthy choices, being in-tuned with our bodies, etc... all things that can occur without being a set size or body type. We are much more likely to be kind to ourselves and make healthy decisions when those decisions are based in self-care rather than a desire to "fix" ourselves. In one post someone stated that we need to treat obesity like smoking but I think the difference between smoking and obesity is that smoking is not about the person. The cigarette and the act of smoking is what designates a person "a smoker" and the person can always distance themselves from that act. When you demonize large bodies, it is about the person. The obese person cannot separate themselves from their body. They cannot simply put down the obesity and see themselves as separate from it. They can't say, I'll stop being obese tomorrow, or get a patch... When obese bodies are isolated and designated as a problem, obese people are isolated and designated as a problem. It simply does not feel good to see a body that looks like yours being portrayed as the enemy. On the flip side, if we help people feel good about themselves they are more likely to change unhealthy behaviors as a result. We cannot guilt or shame people into health and too often the anti-obesity message tries to do just that. Report
We need to quit focusing on "weight" as a measure of health. It's not a good one and I am tired of the term "obesity epidemic". I can't pinch an inch anywhere, have a low body fat percentage and am part of this "epidemic". Oh no, better lose some of that muscle or I will die at a young age of "weight" related problems!

Please remember when you talk about this "obesity crisis" you are considering nearly all athletes obese because when they quote those figures, they are using the BMI.

No, I think people have a right to know that a little fat will not kill them. I don't think people will use it as an excuse to harm their health, but that it can be good for some people. Being within the limits of the BMI says is healthy for me is not going to happen for me. Finally realizing that allowed me to actually get to a size where I am healthy and can't pinch an inch. But guess what? I'm obese! I had never once seen what "those limitations" were with the BMI just told if you are "obese" you are unhealthy. Some people need that information too. Report
My mother was obese when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The doctor gave her 2-3 months to live. She lived 3 years. when she passed away she was a healthy weight, not emaciated like other cancer victims I have known. Not all health issues are weight related and you may need some reserve if you have a catastrophic illness. Report
Wow! I think republishing this article on Sparkpeople brought out some long-harbored feelings and resentments in quite a few people. I also think many people applied their own biased thinking to what was written by Becky and read more into this article than was there.

All this article says is Mass-media often takes a scientific article (not intended for lay people by the way) and twists the meaning of the article in order to create news. And this misrepresentation of the facts of the study can be dangerous to public perception. That's all.

She doesn't say people who are obese are bad or evil. She doesn't say the mass media should bash those who are overweight or obese. What she is saying is mass media shouldn't create a correlation between an article published by a professional journal, twist the meaning of the results, infer a result that isn't there and mislead the public.

Becky goes on to share her own inferences about the study and drawing conclusions not substantiated or even referred to in the article (yes I read the study published in JAMA, 3 times), but that's what blogs are all about. And you also have to take her qualifications into account. She in a registered and licensed nutritionist. She is NOT a doctor or even a scientist (which may in fact be a good thing). Nor is she really a journalist. She is a person with knowledge in a well defined specialty, nutrition, who wrote a blog.

I will say this... Ignore her her writing at your own peril. I have back-researched several of her articles, in depth, and more often than not she is right on the money.
This is a sore subject with me. Obesity is NOT downplayed, but it is the go-to cause for everything. Feeling sick? You're too fat. Bleeding from the nethers? You're too fat. Having heart problems? You're too fat. And the doctors look no further. Well this crappy attitude almost killed me this past year. And the cause wasn't my weight, but an inherited condition.

Please make it stop, I beg you. I am tired of being treated badly because of my size. I am a valuable human being, and I am much more than my size. Blogs and articles like yours just continue to give others reasons to treat bigger people like garbage. Report
Becky, I think you are just as guilty of misleading the public as the journalists who exagerate the implications of the JAMA study. Those journalists imply that because a "few extra pounds" can be OK, we should not worry about obesity. But you are just as bad by not acknowledging the scientific facts that a few extra pounds are OK and trying to scare people into an unnecessarily buying into your "perfect or life isn't worth living" lifestyle -- and buying the products that you have to sell to achieve it.

There are many people out there agonizing over "the last 5 pounds" and others with eating disorders who need to hear that they are healthy -- even if they are 5 or 10 pounds over their ideal weight. Encouraging obsessiveness is not healthy for the public either.

A balanced, reasonable approach based on the true facts is what would be best for the public -- and the message should be that a few pounds are OK, but that obesity is NOT. Neither you nor the journalists have taken that approach. They go too far in one direction ... but you go too far in the other direction. You should both move to the middle.

And finally, I am appalled and offended by your apparent lack of regard for people with disabilities. To suggest that "life is not worth living" if you cannot or choose not to be athletic is a symptom that you have a problem with bigotry. You need to develop a healthier, deeper understanding of what constitutes "quality of life" if you aspire to coach and counsel others.

Onlineasllou, PhD, RN-BC Report
I saw the reports on the news also. Unfortunately, even though the story and the commentary clearly said that being slightly overweight could help you live longer and be healthy, the key word there being SLIGHTLY. The individuals IN the story were all clearly obese. I know that not everyone has the knowledge or training to recognize the difference. I feel sorry for the people who saw that report, compared their bodies to those in the story and truly believed they're still within healthy guidelines. Many people believe what they see, and if you are a responsible news reporting agency, you should do your best to reflect the truth. They absolutely failed the American public with the visual images they provided. Report
Obesity needs to be approached like smoking was...with lots of coverage from the media and with each of our doctors telling their obese patients to LOSE WEIGHT!!!! AND HELPING THEM TO DO IT!!! Report
First of all, let me say I am highly disappointed that you would be publicizing your political views here. Huffintgton Post is hardly a mainstream media source. It is the uber-liberal media. I don't want to hear you work for Fox news or Glen Beck TV either. This is a nutrition web site and politics are irrelevant.
Second, I am very concerned about your comment "Is it worth living a few more years if you can't shoot hoops with your grandkids?" It proposes that those with physical disabilities or physical limitations due to illness don't have lives worth living. It isn't enough to be a source of wisdom and loving kindness to those grand kids? What about someone paralyzed in a auto accident? No shooting hoops for them, there life is worthless according to this standard. Are you proposing a Logan's run type scenario where once you are deemed to old or damaged to be active or too fat to be active, you are humanely euthanized? You here at Spark make your livings off the overweight and obese, yet you tell them their lives aren't worth living because they are limited? Death rather than fat or disabilitiy? Isn't that somewhat of a case of shooting the golden goose? Report
I think the article is being misread. It doesn't say naywhere that obesity is OK, it says that being somewaht overwieght (BMI 24 to 29) is not as bad as they say. i think that as an overweight person, and not obese, I am more aware of healthy eating and exercise. I have seen slim/thin persons who eat whatever they want, including tons of fast food and sweets and who do not exercise. Tell me if she is healthier than me who observe a lot of the rules about healthy eating and exercise as well? There was a period of time where I was a size 5 (therefore within the healthy BMI range!) and, looking back, I know I was not healthy: I was always sluggish! Report
God forbid you let a fat person enjoy her body for any length of time. Better nip that in the bud and remind all them fatties to get moving and stop stuffin' their pie holes!

Quite frankly, I think only an idiot would to believe that the media is downplaying obesity. The obese are constantly ridiculed and shamed in our society, even though it's been proven again and again that BMI is essentially meaningless, diets do not work, you cannot tell if a person is healthy just by their size, and it is NOT as simple as "calories in, calories out." (Haven't you, a dietician, read "Why We Get Fat" by Gary Taubes?) You also have to be pretty hateful to think that obese people need to be reminded constantly by the media that they're lazy, make stupid choices, and don't deserve to eat what they want. To heck with that fat-phobic noise. Report
I am reminded of the articles read by alcoholics who will fly with the idea that a few drinks being "good for your health" is permission to overindulge. There must ALWAYS be a disclaimer. Report
very similar to something I have a MAJOR issue with - stories touting the benefits of alcohol in moderation. I wish they would add the disclaimer: THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO ALCOHOLICS.

I've been around way too many of them in my life and I know that they use these stories to justify continuting to drink (or to start again). Report
good article Report
Obesity is not always the problem, it is often the SYMPTOM..... Report
I liked the article. However, I haven't interpreted the other articles, those related to the correlation of being somewhat overweight to increased health/longevity, as decreasing the need to maintain a healthy weight.

Of course the article titles catch your eye, I read many of them and pretty much every single one included the information that major health issues are still associated with obesity and you need to consult with your own doctor to determine the best weight and fitness level for you (after all, we are not all built the same).

My take-away was to lighten up. Most articles related to weight are beating us up. Truly, how many adults are still out there that don't know that consuming more calories than you expend leads to weight gain and excess weight reduces your fitness and increases health risks. Really? Folks that still believe the fat fairy is visiting them in the middle of the night and making deposits aren't likely to change their minds based on an article that confirms once again the link between obesity and health risks. Less than 15% of people who think that it's their bodies evil metabolism that causes them to gain weight actually have a real medical condition (a number of studies have confirmed this although I fudged the number up slightly; the real number is less than 10%). Some people do have medically based causal issues related to weight gain; most don't and should see a doctor to confirm which camp they belong in.

We've been reading literally for years being significantly overweight is unhealthy and adversely affects our quality of life. From a marketing perspective, clearly the past messaging isn't working. Even on Spark I suspect very few people have successfully lost weight as the result of reading yet one more article talking about the health hazards of obesity. Anyone who can barely walk up a flight of stairs or bend over to tie their shoes knows their weight is a problem.

In order for people to change, they need hope. They need to believe it is possible to change. Setting a target of "perfect weight" disincentives folks who have unsuccessfully tried in the past or just makes the target feel unattainable. Reminding folks that any improvement they make is going to help, might get a few people moving. One hopes that at least some of the writers out there genuinely want to help people.

I understand the need for consistency in messaging, I also understand the need to articulate a message in as many ways as possible to try and connect. As many people commented, most messaging really feels like "let's beat up fat people" and since 2/3rds of us fit in that category, doesn't look like the message has been working. Report
I think you're completely wrong. Report
As an RN who has seen first hand the ravages of diabetes on the human body (along with its resulting complications such as CHF, CVA and kidney failure) I wholeheartedly agree! We must not become complacent in this matter! Report
Ahh yes!!!! This is definitely a problem! As a recovering alcoholic of almost 11 years, I can tell you that news items in the 1990's that stated a drink or two every evening was good for you and could extend your years, was all I needed to keep drinking. However, for me, it never ended with one or two, of course. For people with the same issues with food these reports are all they need to put the brakes on a healthy weight reduction program and exercise.

Thank you for your perspective on this issue. It really hit a chord with me!!!! Report
So many of these articles and headlines are so simplistic, written as if the public is too dumb to understand more than an either/or approach. Good health and longevity cannot be reduced to a formula as simple as a few pounds under or over a magic BMI line. It also wouldn't change your reality if 99% of overweight people are healthy with their weight, if you are among the 1% who is endangered by their weight. There are degrees of danger. There is a world of difference between having a few extra pounds and being in the top half of the overweight category, and there is a really huge world of difference between being overweight and obese (speaking personally). Yet these articles lump all of these under the same umbrella. They also fail to take into account other health and hygiene habits, hereditary predispositions, and other personal factors. If an illness struck hardest among meth and crack users, as opposed to runners or bikers, the statistics could be misused to show that it is unhealthy to be slim. Report
Highly agreed! Our government needs to invest in our health and instead of subsidizing corn, cattle, dairy, etc. turn toward healthier fruits and veggies for subsidies! Here is another article along these lines: The Nefarious Ways Junk Food Marketers are Trying to Buy Off Dietitians:

Don Report
Enjoyed your column on the Huffington Post...will have to look for it from now on. As for headlines...they are usually written to draw people in; some articles are just written for shock value. The bottom line is as you stated:
Don't rely on any one analysis to determine health. And since the medical community is still trying to figure out how to deal with the overweight/obesity epidemic....who know's if they will ever have a definitive answer. Report
Firstly, Congratulations to Becky for having the honor of being asked to write a regular column in a major periodical. You rock!
Secondly, I agree with RACINGSLUG's comment regarding Daily Spark Digest's seeming to sometimes "dumb down" scientific data. And it would help if links to research references were included.
Thirdly, as an RN I find that the scale is not the most helpful index of my weight loss success. As has been mentioned on SP, a more useful measure is a decrease in waist circumference. While healthy nutrition is definitely important in any fitness plan, I have come to understand that strenuous (but brief) strength training is the most effective way to lose body fat.. According to fitness expert Jonathan Bailor ("The Smarter Sense of Slim"), a central element in long-term weight loss is the application of a substantial resistance while exercising eccentrically. This type of exercise is tolerated for only a brief time, but it activates the 2b muscle fibers, producing hormones that "unclog" the metabolic processes of the individual who is overweight, bringing about a gradual and consistent weight loss over time...
Sources: Bailor, Jonathan. The Smarter Sense of Slim.
Nilsson, Nick: Metabolic Surge
Burton, Ray L. Fat to Fit Report
I must admit that I'm not very impressed by the piece. As Grebjack mentioned above, there is actually quite a bit of evidence showing that being slightly overweight can lead to a longer life. Rarely has actual obesity shown that, as this metanalysis did. I must admit I'm a bit skeptical of that finding. Most people don't realize that what is considered a healthy BMI was as high as 27 until the NIH lowered it to 25 only in 1998. At the time, news articles mentioned that 25M Americans had become "fat" overnight. Perhaps we will eventually decide that 27 wasn't a bad cutoff point, as more research is done. The BMI is simply a quick, easy diagnostic tool - it's not an ironclad predictor of whether anyone is healthy or not.

Second, if anyone actually reads the research (which I don't believe ANYONE who has written an article about it has done), the protective effect from higher BMIs is correlated with higher ages, and is particularly important above 60yo. Again from Grebjack above, dealing with an acute illness can take an immediate impact on your body, and it's very possible that the stored energy helps prevent or slow wasting. I think many people have direct experience seeing this with someone who has had a long hospital stay or prolonged illness.

Finally, I think that it's important that we always differentiate between overweight and higher levels of obesity. Having a BMI of 27 is entirely a different world than being at 35 or 40. Someone at that higher level very often will have negative impacts in their life currently, whether it's mobility or sleep issues, often feeling tired, etc. Exercise and good eating are the prescription for better health, weight loss is simply the side effect. I think it's also important to remember that there are many "worried well" people in our society, those who fret over a single pound or whether they have skipped a workout. It's good to give them a little mental security that having an extra pound or two is not going to wreck their health (or kill them). Report
A rose by any other name is still FAT!! I don't need some organization telling me that what I am is good or not good. I agree with the article. I am tired of being out of breath after climbing one flight of stairs, my joints are starting to hurt from the excess weight, I am pre-diabetic, I look like I am many months pregnant, I want to wear a belt and tuck in my shirt again. I packed on the pounds one fork-full at a time and I intend to take it off that way, with exercise. Report
Well done, Becky. You are right on! For me, my biggest concern is trying to get rid of the apple shape. Have had that tummy since a kid and no amount of exercise or diet seems to make a difference. I was a very active child and have never been a couch potato. Don't even watch TV! And at age 77, I get anywhere from 30 to 120 min. of daily exercise in the form of 60 min. ambitious water aerobics, walking and riding the recumbent bike. How do I explain this??? Report
Awesome Blog and Article. We agree with You. The Media downplaying Obesity is a very danderous thing that they are doing. Any extra weifgt can do harm to you. We need a Healthy Nation Eating Healthy Food. Stay away from Process Food, White Flour and Sugar as much as You Can. Eat Whole Grains, Fruit, Vetgetables, lean Proteins, Water Etc. This is what the Cuntry needs.God Blessings To Everyone. Have a Wonderful Week. Take Care. Report
I read your article. It is really excellent! I should add more balanced than some dietitians.

It used to be that some of their informational and studies were influenced by drug companies and the food industry. I'm not in college anymore, so I don't know if his is still true.

When I took a cholesterol class( that BTW _ I had to twist my Dr arm to get in/ although they had broshures downstairs ). They were forcing statins on everyone. Another friend told me a particular hospital system insist all their patients over 50 take them. He thought my concerns about lifetime side effects was dumb. Report
You go girl! Keep preaching it. It's all about quality of life for me now, not just a longer life. Report
Great blog Becky, your point about medications providing a skewed view of life expectancy is true. Unfortunately our society has become quite proficient at addressing a symptom rather than the cause. We, as a society, definitely have to change. Report
Downplaying? It seems we can't turn around without tripping over an article or news broadcast about the obesity epidemic, most of which are of the "blame and shame" variety: we are lazy, self-indulgent, lacking in will-power and moral fiber, and are costing the public a fortune for our health care. Besides which, we smell funny and take up more than our fair share of airline seats. Any and every disease from diabetes to shingles is somehow tied to our weight, yet when we ask our doctors for nutritional guidance or an exercise plan, we're told, "You don't need to see a nutritionist; just stop stuffing your face and lose the weight." Not helpful, Doc!

Somehow, I don't think this one half-baked study will convince people it's fine to be 800 pounds. Report
I am a mathematician and statistician by training, and it has long been the case in life insurance data that people who are slightly overweight have longer life expectancy than people who are right at their "ideal" BMI. I suspect that this is real - that the bodies most able to function well day-to-day AND to survive the acute crisis of an illness are those people who are cardiovascularly fit but with a few extra pounds of fat under their skin. We evolved to put on fat when extra calories are available for exactly the reason that financial advisors encourage a rainy day fund of cash in the bank. That said, you have to keep in mind when you read these studies that Olympic athletes have "overweight" BMIs because muscle is so much heavier than fat - that body composition has a really long healthy life expectancy. And my dear friend fighting late stage cancer now has a low BMI because her body has consumed most of its rainy day fund and her life expectancy right now is pretty depressing. Most of us aren't fighting a terminal disease, or "overweight" because of our enormous muscles, and for that most of us, a headline encouraging us to gain weight is just stupid. Report
I don't see many articles downplaying obesity. I have seen the one about overweight people living longer, but that is all, and it did say that only a few pounds overweight at that. Mostly what I see is articles that blame EVERYTHING on being overweight. Yes, I believe obesity is a problem. However, there are other causes of some of those diseases besides the obesity. While I am obese and that is a problem with my getting diabetes, I am also genetically linked to it. My grandmother had it, my uncle had it (neither were obese), I think my aunt had it and my dad was listed as borderline when the numbers were listed as higher than they are now. So if he were alive now they would have said he had it. There are plenty of people who have it who were never obese. There are also many people who have had cancer that they are now saying is caused by obesity, who were not overweight. So it goes both ways. Downplaying obesity is bad, but telling the public that all these diseases are caused by obesity only, which is what several reports have done, is also doing the public a disservice because many will think if they lose weight their cancer and diabetes will automatically be cured. Those who are making the statements either way need to be more honest. Losing weight might bring something like diabetes under control, but it won't cure it. Eating right will keep it under control. Losing weight will not cure cancer, but proper nutrition might help. Report
Shared your article on Facebook. It IS a problem & absolutely needs to be addressed. Hopefully with writers like you, the attention of the First Lady & Jamie Oliver's Food Revelation & others, people will finally get the message. Report