“Poll finds health disconnect!” Well no sh*t Sherlock!

From the Associated Press I have this little gem that has at least a few good quotable bits I’d like to share.

First, the title: “Worry over weight: Poll finds health disconnect” (Wait, what?  People are confused about what the true connection is between weight and health?  You don’t say?  Please go on….elaborate on this stunning conundrum.)

There’s a big disconnect between body image and true physical condition, an Associated Press-iVillage poll suggests. A lot of women say they’re dieting despite somehow avoiding healthy fruits and veggies. Many others think they’re fat when they’re not.

“The priorities are flipped,” says Dr. Molly Poag, chief of psychiatry at New York’s Lennox Hill Hospital.

Hmm.  Flipped priorities?  People are think they’re fat when they’re NOT?  People are dieting for size and NOT health? People are on diets of cardboard and sodium instead of fruits and veggies and think it will Benefit Their Health???  Again…go on…you have piqued my interest.

She points to women athletes as much better role models than supermodels: “There’s an undervaluing of physical fitness and an overvaluing of absolute weight and appearance for women in our culture.”

What what what? Our culture *gulp* OVERVALUES weight and appearance of women? Over any other measure of health or individual worth? It can’t be. Say it isn’t so!

Eating disorders aside, normal-skinny doesn’t automatically mean healthy, stresses University of Houston sociologist Samantha Kwan, who studies gender and body image.

“Someone who is fat or even overweight can be healthy if they have a balanced diet and are physically active,” Kwan says. “Our culture really does put a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way,” taking precedence over health measures.

Hmmm so you’re saying that appearances, again, have been trumping health? Across the board? People of any given weight are NOT automatically healthy or not just BECAUSE they are a particular weight? Behaviors such as eating a balanced and varied diet and getting physical activity are good for EVERYONE?? I swear…my head just might explode! Don’t say there’s more…

“Someone who is fat or even overweight can be healthy if they have a balanced diet and are physically active,” Kwan says. “Our culture really does put a lot of pressure on women to look a certain way,” taking precedence over health measures.

*Head explodes* So, the findings of your poll show a gaping disconnect between the desire to diet for looks and the reality that this doesn’t result in any actual improvement in health? Size is NOT indicative of actual health?  You could possibly be healthy at…any size? Yet, what are we intended to take away from this report?

  1. “About 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.” (Check. So, MORE THAN HALF of the female population is above “average” in weight (do these people KNOW what a mathematical average is???))
  2. “About a quarter of the women surveyed said they’d consider plastic surgery to feel more beautiful. Their overwhelming choice: a tummy tuck.” (Check. Self-loathing is distinctly tied into beauty of appearance, particularly in the stomach aka Feeding Repository)
  3. “People can’t see the damage that’s being done inside their body,” says Goldberg. “If you increase your fitness but don’t lose as much weight, you still have a lower heart disease risk than someone who is obese and sedentary.” (Ah yes, despite it all, the take-away message is STILL that “yah yah, don’t be sedentary but OMG DON’T be obese! [emphasis in quote is mine])

Le sigh. I’m encouraged that more and more reports/studies/interviews etc are being brought even a bit to the “light” of mass-media consumption but can’t wait for the day that the spin at the end of such articles is no longer a final jab at “Yeah, but whatever,  Just stop being fat you fatties”.  A woman can dream….

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11 thoughts on ““Poll finds health disconnect!” Well no sh*t Sherlock!

  1. “About 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.” (Check. So, MORE THAN HALF of the female population is above “average” in weight (do these people KNOW what a mathematical average is???))

    I hate to say this, but nothing about the mathematical definition of average makes it impossible for more than half of a sample to be above it. Are you thinking of median?

    For example, if four students get 100 on a test, and one gets 0, then the average is 80 and four out of five students are above average.

    • Anonymous perhaps I am thinking more about just having 60% above the median (or mode for that matter). (Turns out my own grasp of statistics is not as strong as some who comment around here but I admit that at least).

      • Well, here’s my understanding of how it works. And, yes, averages are sort of involved.

        Some time ago, circa 1940’s, when height/weight ratios and the definition for “overweight”, &c were established, they arbitrarily established those definitions as corresponding to certain percentiles (50 for “overweight”). Imagine a bell-curve, with the line between “normal” and “overweight” drawn through the highest point of the curve.

        As the population got very slightly larger, the bell curve (the population’s height/weight ratio) moved ever so little, while the line stayed in the same place. So a very slight change in that ratio leads to a very large change in just who is “above” that line.

        Add to that the more recent changes in definitions and the ‘average’ spoken of here bears no relation at all to median, mode or mean. Or, yanno, reality at all.

    • Its true that its possible for more than half of a sample to be above average, but from my (admittedly not very thorough) understanding of statistics, in a large enough sample size (say, the human population) the distribution should be very close to Normal distribution, which by definition has its average equal to its median.

      So in a normally distributed population (as I would expect the entire sample of “Americans” to be) it is actually be extremely unlikely for 60% of them to be above average.

      I think the confusion here is the definition of “overweight” which is in no way related to “average”. You know, what with that being a complete crock and all!

      • Fair enough, of course. Give them a decade or two and they’ll define anyone over size zero as overweight to sell more shame and Diet Poison (TM).

        • How sad that we can write “Selling shame” and realize that it applies to reality; not just some sort of science fiction alternate universe!

  2. ““Someone who is fat or even overweight can be healthy if they have a balanced diet and are physically active,” Kwan says. ”

    So this person is defining “overweight” as more-fat-than-fat? *puzzle*

    • I know. Some of the quotes leave a bit of be-puzzled wondering there. Maybe to this Kwan “Fat” means…. just having a “bit”; as opposed to fitting a BMI definition? If not maybe they mis-quoted or Kwan simply doesn’t know what they really want to say! 🙂

  3. This whole averages thing brings me back to high school psychology where we were given the riddle “90% of people think they have above-average intelligence. How is this so?”

    I wish the media would make up its mind.

  4. I read that article, too, and I’m still scraping exploded cerebellum off the walls. Even when they try to note that there’s a difference between weight and overall health, most reporters find it impossible to get past the overwhelming cultural rush to assume that any body fat = automatic death from horrible fat diseases.

    I do give them points for trying, but clearly it’s going to take a long time for the discussion to catch up with the research.

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