Are you in denial about weight gain? Chances are, yes.
Researchers from the University of Washington found that a surprisingly high number of people think they are losing weight when they really aren’t. The study published in the journal Preventive Medicine also discovered that people report weighing more a year ago than they actually did.
“People’s weights are going up from year to year,” said lead author Catherine Wetmore. “But when they’re asked to think back to a year ago, they recall being heavier than they were.”
The study was based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s surveys of Americans from 2008 and 2009 as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS. Nearly 800,000 people were surveyed in total. Volunteers were asked various health and lifestyle-related questions, including:
“About how much do you weigh without shoes?” and
“How much did you weigh a year ago?”
According to the report, many people thought they had slimmed down from the year before because they reported their weight as being lower now. However, on average Americans had gained one pound during that year. A bit of a disconnect there. What’s more, people in the survey were rounding up last year’s weight to make themselves believe they had lost weight.
“They do a lot of rounding up, something we call ‘heaping,’” Wetmore said. “So they report their weight change in increments of 5, 10, 15, or 20 pounds. If they say they’re now 163 pounds and they’re remembering being heavier in the past, they might add 10 to that and say they were 173 pounds a year ago.”
And believe it or not, men are more likely to do it than women!
“There could be a lot of reasons driving it,” she said. “I know it’s a stereotype, but I think women are more attuned to their appearance. And maybe it’s society’s pressure for women to be thin. Whatever the reason, you do see women doing a better job of keeping track of changes in their weight over time.”
According to NBC, if the weights reported were actually true, obesity would have declined from 2008 to 2009 by 5 percent. Instead, it went up 5 percent. Wetmore points out that if researchers relied on these reports, they would have undercounted approximately 4.4 million obese adults in the U.S.
“The message we’re trying to drive home is that if Americans don’t accept the reality of their weight changes over time, they’re not going to be motivated to lose weight,” Wetmore said. “It’s important to be attuned to even small changes in body weight because over time they can really add up.”