LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- The severity of obesity is overlooked in the United States as many obese or overweight Americans often believe they are thinner than they really are, even when the scales are showing otherwise, a new poll finds.
In the Harris Interactive/HealthDay survey, respondents were asked to provide their height and weight, from which pollsters calculated their body-mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. Respondents were then asked which category of weight they thought they fell into.
Thirty percent of those in the "overweight" class believed they were actually normal size, while 70 percent of those classified as obese felt they were simply overweight. Among the heaviest group, the morbidly obese, almost 60 percent pegged themselves as obese, while another 39 percent considered themselves merely overweight.
Most respondents to the poll who felt they were heavier than they should be blamed sloth, rather than poor eating habits, for their predicament.
According to the poll, 52 percent of overweight people and 75 percent of both the obese and morbidly obese felt they didn't exercise enough.
Food appeared to be a lesser culprit than lack of exercise in people's minds, with 36 percent of overweight respondents, 48 percent of obese respondents and 27 percent of those morbidly obese feeling they ate more than they "should in general."
As for weight-loss interventions, the respondents deemed surgery the most effective method, followed by prescription drugs, then drugs and diet-food supplements obtained over-the-counter.
These findings may help to explain why overweight and obesity rates in the United States continue to go up, experts say.
"While there are some people who have body images in line with their actual BMI, for many people they are not, and this may be where part of the problem lies," Regina Corso, vice president of Harris Poll Solutions, said in remarks published by HealthDay News on Thursday. "If they do not recognize the problem or don't recognize the severity of the problem, they are less likely to do something about it."
And that means that obesity may be becoming the new norm, raising the specter of increasing rates of health threats such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
"I think too many people are unsure of what they should actually weigh," Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, was quoted as saying. "For many, they have grown up in a culture were most people are overweight and that is the norm, or they have been surrounded by too many celebrities and fashion in the media and think very thin is the norm."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34 percent of adults aged 20 and older are obese, and 34 percent are overweight. Among children, 18 percent of teens aged 12 to 19 are obese, 20 percent of children aged 6 to 11 are obese, as are 10 percent of kids aged 2 to 5. The poll included 2,418 adults (aged 18 and over) who were surveyed online between Aug. 17 and 19.
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