Fat teenagers don’t get it

stick_figure_overweight_scale_1600_wht_3853They watch TV programmes about obesity – which usually feature clinically obese people – and think they are OK, even though they are overweight and probably in danger of becoming obese.

Being obese puts people at increased risk of diabetes and increasingly of cancer (an estimated 18,000 cases a year).

When researchers from Cancer Research UK asked teenagers aged 13 to 15 if they were overweight or OK, 40% of those who were overweight or obese thought they were OK.

Obesity, which accounts for about a fifth of cancer deaths, is set to overtake smoking as the main cause of cancer.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, said “Programmes about overweight people tend to show very obese people. Some teenagers who see these images probably think that is what an overweight person looks like so they might not realise if they are slightly overweight”. 

Sarah Jackson, who led the study, said that parents often underestimate the problem putting it down to “Puppy fat“.  Also growing levels of obesity are normalising overweight people as “normal”.

In the study only three-quarters of the teenagers had a bmi within the normal weight range (NB bmi is not the best measure). 20% were overweight and 7% obese.

80% thought they were the right weight, 7% that they were too heavy, and 10% that they were too light. Girls were more likely than boys to think they were too heavy.

Professor Jane Wardle from the Cancer Research UK Health BehaviourResearch Centre at UCL said “Young people who think they’re overweight when they’re not can sometimes develop devastating eating disorders, so we’re delighted that most of the normal-weight teenagers had a realistic view of their body size. But we need to find effective ways of helping too-heavy teenagers slim down and maintain a healthier weight”

Other posts about obesity

Obese? No, not me..

stick_figure_overweight_scale_1600_wht_3853It will probably come as no surprise to learn that the majority of obese people don’t think that they are.

Only 1 in 10 clinically obese people admit that they are; 11% of women and 7% of men.

A further 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 admitted that they were “very overweight” but the rest thought that they were either simply overweight or just right.

The research carried out by Cancer Research UK and published in BMJ Open found that only 10% of people knew that a body mass index (BMI) of 30 is the cut-off score for obesity.

Leaving aside the fact that the BMI has been discredited when used as a single measure of health and better methods have been discovered it perhaps reflects the fact that being overweight has become normalised in our society.

The director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at UCL said; “It’s a real worry that people don’t recognise that their weight places them in the obese category because it means that they aren’t aware of the increased risk of a number of health problems including cancer”.

She also thinks that the term obese is considered derogatory and rejected by overweight people, and this might have been worsened by campaigners using extreme images to get their message across, something most people won’t identify with.

It also seems that many GPs struggle to categorise patients as either overweight and obese and now that health care workers aren’t allowed to use the word “fat” just what can be done about it? Enforced boot camps?

The government would rather throw money at it by providing gastric bands for people with no will-power or motivation to stay healthy.