|3% to 5%||of US adults were morbidly obese (BMI > 40)|
|25%||of US adults were obese (BMI > 30)|
|66%||of US adults were overweight OR obese (BMI > 25)|
Yet newspapers and television tend to illustrate articles about the “OMG Obesity Panic!!1!! Most Americans are fat!!!” with images of extremely fat people like myself. Are they perhaps afraid that MOST fat people don’t look fat enough to be scary? Hm?
One of the dirty little secrets of the obesity panic is that most “overweight and obese adults” aren’t very fat. By the numbers, most of the “overweight or obese” category can buy clothing in department stores—but that’s not the image left in people’s minds. My size 14/16 friend who’s on the cusp of overweight and obese? She’s a better example of the “OMG most Americans are Fat!” than I am. Never mind that most of our friends don’t see her as fat or that’s she’s only on the cusp because they lowered the weight ranges.
I once got to listen to coworkers discuss how shocking it is that so many Americans are fat and – get this – musing about what sort of lives “those fat people had”. Oh sure, many of these coworkers were on diets, and some would complain about doctors telling them they were a little overweight. But they didn’t grasp that being “a little overweight” meant they were one of the “fat people”. In this company of 50 people, only 2 of us were in the deathfat category — and we were the only ones seen as fat, and we were still told, “Oh, you’re not that fat”.
Right. I’m superfat, but “I’m not that fat.”
Guess what, people. Most “fat people” aren’t very fat. Yes, there are millions of us deathfat folks in the US. That’s because 3 or 4 or 5 percent of hundreds of millions is millions. Meanwhile there’s hundreds of millions of people who are technically fat who would be rejected as “not fat enough” for a headless fatty photo.
Update: The CDC’s Anthropometric Reference Data (PDF) bears this out as well. Check tables 14 and 15 on BMI; note that 95% of American men have BMIs less than 38.6, and 95% of American women have BMIs less than 41.6.