From: John Hernried, M.D.
Most patients who come to the Obesity Treatment Center have a medical diagnosis of obesity and know they need help. However, I know we are treating the tip of the iceberg when it comes to obesity. I was always amazed in my internal medicine practice, when an obese patient would say; “I may need to lose a few pounds sometime.” Even if I pointed out that their weight was dangerously high and would lead to serious medical problems, they would say: “At least I’m not obese.”
It turns out this type of thinking is not uncommon in the overweight. An interesting new study presented in April at The American Society of Nutrition Conference by Dr. Kimberly Truesdale of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked patients of various weights to assess their own weight status (underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese). Those who were of normal weight or overweight estimated correctly about 90% of the time. However, only 15% of patients who were obese correctly assessed their own status as being obese.
“These findings have important public health implications,” says Dr. Truesdale. “If obese adults do not consider themselves to be obese, they are not likely to pay full attention to public health messages about the consequences of being obese. More research is needed into why obese adults do not consider themselves to be obese, with two possibilities being perception and denial.”
I’m concerned because I’m only reaching 15% of the population at risk and wonder how to get the message out to the rest. I believe that not recognizing your body size is an image disorder just the opposite of anorexia but just as pernicious. There is likely a neurobiological component that allows the body to be in denial and “save” the excess storage for time of famine. Learning how to address this denial will play a key role in dealing with the obesity epidemic. I am greatly encouraged that BMI is being noted at nearly every physician visit at many medical institutions in my community because it is an objective measure that cannot be denied.
I recently read a business book that discussed how several good companies faced the “Brutal Reality” in order to make the necessary adjustments to be successful. If you are reading this blog entry, take a deep breath, and link to our BMI calculator and see where you are. If you have a BMI over 30, take another deep breath and consider asking for assistance. Congratulations, you are now in the 15% that realize you have a medical condition that requires attention. This is a big first step!!