Entries in Overweight (25)


Chicago Gym Offers Overweight Only Membership

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In a culture that values thin, the fat debate is on fire.

From plus-size models strutting the catwalks, to curvaceous superstars like Adele belting it out at the Oscars (and winning one for "Skyfall") and Lena Dunham proudly bearing it all in her hit HBO show, "Girls," plus-size is going mainstream.

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and several clothing stores, like Fashion to Figure, are marketing cute clothes for bigger girls.

"I think in today's world, when there's so many positive role models out there, Octavia Spencer, Adele, Melissa McCarthy from 'Bridesmaids' and lots of people like that, I think, are changing the way things are viewed," said Fashion to Figure CEO Michael Kaplan. "And those biases hopefully will become removed over time."

Vogue, a magazine famous for featuring super-skinny figures, will soon feature Kate Upton, a swimsuit model known for her curves, on their cover.

So is there still real shame in being overweight? For the gym-goers at Downsize Fitness in Chicago, the answer is, "Yes."

At Downsize Fitness, membership is reserved for the overweight only -- those who are at least 50 pounds overweight -- because they feel "fat shamed."

"Before I came here, I did try to lose weight," said one gym-goer named Chris Almaguer. "But with me being my size, I would literally stay up all night, maybe around 4, 5 a.m., go outside just to walk so no one would see me."

"There is a need for a place that people, heavy people need to go and concentrate on losing weight," said David Lanz.

They are all self-described outcasts from the mainstream gym scene, where they often felt ostracized.

"There's not a culture of acceptance in America for overweight people," said Francis Wisniewski, co-founder of Downsize Fitness. "You can still make fun of it in movies. You can still discriminate against based on size. So it's still that last thing in America that you are not protected on."

Downsize Fitness is now part of the national argument: Are overweight people still treated differently?

Just this week, CVS Pharmacy told its employees they had to submit information on their weight, body fat and glucose levels or pay a "surcharge," an extra $600 per year, for the company's health insurance plan.

Another hot button question: Should overweight airline passengers have to buy an extra seat?

Blogger Kenlie Tiggerman said she was humiliated by a Southwest Airlines gate agent in 2011.

"The gate agent came up to me and he asked me how much I weighed, what size clothes I wore," she told "Nightline" in a 2012 interview. "He said that I was too fat to fly, that I would need an additional seat."

Sharon Robertson has also felt the pain of harsh stares and ridicule. She joined Downsize Fitness last year, when her starting weight was 376 pounds and she said she was still reeling from the sting of bad experiences with a personal trainer at a mainstream gym.

"I don't know if she was afraid of training a fat person or what it was," Robertson said. "So all I was able to do was sit in a corner and work on a treadmill. It definitely hurt."

In six months at Downsize Fitness, Robertson dropped 20 pounds. Her goal weight is 225.

"The workouts are stressful, they are trying," Wisniewski said. "We ask people to come five times a week. We call people if they don't show up."

Basic membership at the gym is $50 a month. A premium membership, which includes a trainer, a nutritionist and unlimited group classes, costs $250 a month.

Some critics say that Downsize Fitness segregates obese people, but Wisniewski believes it is for a purpose.

"Gyms are built for fit people to stay fit," he said. "I don't think they are built for fat people to get fit. In a way, we are segregating, but we are segregating for a reason."

Lewis Cline also joined Downsize Fitness six months ago, when his starting weight was 310 pounds.

He said he tried to lose weight at one of those "other" gyms and was a member for 12 years, paying $75 a month. But after only going for one year, he never went back.

"It wasn't something where I was comfortable going into the gym," Cline said. "You are on your own. There is no one there to help you. There is no one to explain what you should be doing."

Since joining Downsize Fitness, he has dropped 50 pounds and his goal weight is 180.

Exercise physiologist Jennifer Ventrelle agreed that it makes a difference to be comfortable when deciding to engage in healthy behavior.

"It's not about, 'Oh, it's OK that you're big. You can stay the way that you are. It's OK that you are not physically active because you don't feel comfortable in the gym,'" she said. "You're going to be working just as hard. It's just in a different environment. You're being more accommodating to someone so that they can engage in healthier behaviors."

Chris Almaguer is Downsize Fitness' biggest success story. The first day he entered the gym, he weighed nearly 500 pounds. Just one year later, he has lost a whopping 202 pounds. His goal weight is to get to 190.

"It was more like this, I was just trying to hold myself up and my back was just hurting too much," he said.

He is now one of the gym's most active members.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Is Being Overweight Really Bad For You?

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If your New Year's resolution is to lose those last few pounds that are keeping you out of your skinny jeans, a new review suggests you may want to think twice.

The research reinforces a counterintuitive point that past studies have suggested -- being a bit on the heavy side may actually cut your risk of dying prematurely.

In the review, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at nearly 100 studies involving 2.88 million people that compared body mass index, or BMI, to the risk of death from any cause.

BMI is derived from a formula that compares your height to your weight. It is currently the standard means of determining whether someone is underweight, of normal weight, overweight or obese.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that the heaviest among us -- those who have a BMI above 30 -- have a higher risk of death than those who are considered to be at a "normal" weight, or a BMI between 18.5 and 25.

But the researchers also found a slight dip in death risk -- about 6 percent -- in those whose BMIs were between 25 and 30. In other words, people who would be classified as overweight appear to have a lower risk of death from any cause.

Moreover, for those who were considered to be on the lower end of the obesity spectrum, with a BMI of 30 to 35, the risk of death from any cause was not significantly different from that experienced by those who were at a normal weight.

As is apparent from the number of studies examined in this review, this is not the first time that a link has been suggested between being a tad on the heavy side and having a decreased risk of death. And several past studies have disputed this link. But this new review may lend support to the idea that our health may not be as closely tied to the numbers on our scales as we might have been led to believe.

Lead study researcher Katherine Flegal, Ph.D., of the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, said the review was in many ways a follow-up to research she and her colleagues published in 2005 that suggested a slightly higher-than-normal BMI was necessarily attached to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease.

"We found that being overweight in that study was not associated with excess mortality from cardiovascular disease or cancer, but it reduced mortality from other things," Flegal said. "There's even some research that suggests body fat itself could be cardioprotective."

On one hand, said obesity experts not involved with the research, the findings suggest that the current widespread use of BMI as a way to determine if one is overweight or obese may need to be reconsidered. Flegal said that the problem may not be the BMI scale, but, rather, how the different rungs on the BMI ladder are interpreted by doctors. In this way, such research may have implications for physicians who currently advise patients in the overweight BMI category to lose a few pounds.

"These are not health categories, these are weight categories," Flegal said.

Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center, agreed that this review supports the idea that doctors may need to reexamine the way they advise certain patients.

"In a society prone to both epidemic and increasingly severe obesity, it may be that those who manage to remain in the 'overweight' class are, in fact, those who are actually doing quite well," said Katz, who was not involved with the study. "This study suggests that if the basis for defining 'overweight' is adverse health effects, we may want to raise the threshold. The definition of 'overweight' should begin where health risks begin."

Katz pointed out that the study looked only at death rates -- not quality of life. And this is an area, he said, that may be affected by being overweight or slightly obese.

"We have recent evidence -- from the Lancet's 'Global Burden of Disease' study -- that we are living longer, but sicker," he said. "It may be that overweight does, indeed, contribute to type 2 diabetes and heart disease, but not to premature death.

"Living is not really the prize; living well is the prize. So we should be careful before jumping to conclusions about these findings."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Stressed Men Prefer Heavier Women, Study Suggests

Hemera/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Gentlemen may prefer blondes, but stressed men prefer heavier women -- at least according to a new study.

In the study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers at the University of Westminster in London subjected 41 men to a stress-inducing task.  After this task, the researchers asked the men to rate the attractiveness of female bodies ranging from emaciated to obese.

Compared to a control group of 40 men who did not undergo the stress task, the stressed men rated a significantly heavier female body size as the most attractive, and they rated heavier female bodies as more attractive in general.

"Our body size preferences are flexible and can be changed by environment and circumstance," explains Martin Tovee, one of the study's authors.  "We need to understand the factors shaping body preferences."

In this case, it appears that stress alters the classic stereotype that men prefer thin women in general.

Researchers not directly involved with the study said the finding is consistent with what past work has shown regarding the way stress influences our perceptions.

"Stress, both acute and chronic, has profound effect on how we process new information both cognitively and emotionally," explains Dr. Igor Galynker, associate chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Beth Israel Medical Center.

In fact, earlier research has shown that men also prefer heavier body sizes when resources are unpredictable or unavailable.  Certain evolutionary theories suggest this may be because when times are tough, a thin woman may be ill, have irregular periods, and may be unable to support pregnancy.

"If you live in an environment where food is scarce, being heavier means that you have fat stored up as a buffer and that you must be higher social status to afford the food in the first place," Tovee explains.  "Both of these are attractive qualities in a partner in those circumstances."

The study also found that the stressed men gave higher ratings to a wider range of female figures than did their unstressed counterparts.  This may have implications about how we choose the people to date and marry.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Some Moms Unaware Toddlers Are Overweight, Study Finds

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Mothers of overweight toddlers believe their children are smaller than they actually are, according to a new study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Moms whose toddlers were overweight also reported being more satisfied with their children’s size, possibly reflecting the belief that heavier toddlers are normal.

Mothers whose toddlers were underweight, on the other hand, had accurate perceptions of their child’s size, but believed their children needed to be bigger, the study found.

The researchers asked 281 low-income, mostly African-American mothers of toddlers between 13 and 30 months of age to select a silhouette that they believed most accurately represented their child’s shape.  Mothers of overweight toddlers were 88 percent less likely to choose an accurate shape.

The authors had hypothesized before the study that low education level and low income, as well as being African American, were factors associated with inaccurate views of toddler weight.

“We live in this culture where people perceive overweight or chubby toddlers to be healthy infants or toddlers, and that’s been a social norm,” said Erin Hager, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  “We also live in a culture where there are so many overweight kids, so the overweight body type is becoming the norm.”

Parents might idealize their child as being a normal size, the authors wrote, because a heavy child is sometimes seen as a “sign of successful parenting, especially during the early years when parents are responsible for their child’s health, nutrition and activity opportunities,” the authors wrote.

But an overweight child runs the risk of numerous health problems that can persist throughout life -- from diabetes to heart disease -- which is why Hager said it’s important for parents to become more aware of what an overweight body type is.

“The best way is though pediatric visits,” she said.  “If people go to these well-child visits and we can get this dialogue going in a clinical setting about what a child’s body proportion is, parents can start to visualize what the ideal proportion is.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fat Forecast: 42% of Americans Obese by 2030

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- About 32 million more Americans will become obese by 2030, upping obesity rates to 42 percent of the U.S. population, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report also predicts that the proportion of Americans who are severely obese, meaning more than 100 pounds overweight, will reach 11 percent, about double the current rate.

The report’s authors give a sobering price tag for these predictions: such an increase would create $550 billion of obesity-related health care costs.

The report was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and was released at the CDC’s Weight of the Nation conference Monday, a gathering focused on the impact of the obesity epidemic. The authors analyzed data collected from each state and made projections based on a number of factors influencing obesity rates, including the cost of healthy and unhealthy foods, gas prices and Internet access.

Although recent data suggest that rates of obesity have reached a plateau, current rates of obesity are still alarmingly high. About 34 percent of adults are currently obese, creating a whole host of expensive, chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The report’s authors said a number of factors could lead to the predicted rise in obesity. About two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight and could continue to gain weight and move into the obese category.

Dr. William Dietz, one of the study’s authors and director of the CDC’s division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, also noted that children who are currently overweight or obese will likely be a major source of the increasing rates.

Currently about 17 percent of children and adolescents are obese.

Anti-obesity measures such as better urban design, access to recreational facilities, workplace health promotion and new drugs could help reign in the problem, the authors noted.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Personality Causing Obesity?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could your personality be making your fat? Tiffanie Davis Henry, a therapist and co-host of ABC’s The Revolution, appeared on Good Morning America on Wednesday to weigh in on just that topic.  And she said that your personality -- and the connection between emotions and what and when you eat -- could indeed be making you fat.

Specific personality types are more prone to weight gain.  Henry broke down various personality traits and how they could lead to packing on the pounds.

The Negative Nellies

We all know that person in the office who always has something negative to say.  That negativity might be uncalled for, even in bad situations, and Nellies are so down on themselves that they hurt themselves with food, Henry said.  The bad attitude might actually be affecting every aspect of life, including eating habits, she said.

Negative Nellies can turn things around by doing a check to see if their feelings are excessive.  They also need to realize that eating the food will make them feel worse, she said. Henry suggested that they find someone to blow off steam to, and to get a real read on just how bad a situation actually is.

The Instant Gratifier

This is the person who cannot say no.  They have to eat it now, then feel bad afterward and gain weight quickly, Henry said.

To change that behavior, Instant Gratifiers should soothe their moods, the Atlanta therapist said.  They have to look at what they are eating and decide whether they’re eating to avoid dealing with problems or issues in their lives.  They should tell themselves that having that slice of cake will keep them from getting into those jeans, and they’ll find it easier to delay that gratification, she said.

The People Pleaser

Many mothers are in this category.  These are the people who cannot say no, always put others first and themselves last, and who are so busy caring for everyone else that they’ll eat on the go, Henry said.

The solution is to stop making sure that everyone else is happy, and to realize that when you're happy, everyone’s happy, Henry said.  She added that the more someone says ‘yes’ to others, the more they’re actually saying ‘no’ to themselves.  By putting your own needs first, you can better take care of everyone else, she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


As Americans Get Bigger, So Do Horses and Saddles

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the rugged cowboy country of western Colorado, master saddle maker Bob Klenda has noticed a troublesome trend since he started stitching leather in 1961: The typical horseback rider has a much bigger posterior.

“When I started 50 years ago, 14 inch saddles were common and a 15 inch (saddle) was considered a big seat,” Klenda tells ABC News.

Now, Klenda says, 15 ½ to 16 inch saddles are standard.  The custom saddle producer even makes one or two 17-inch saddles among the dozen he turns out each year.

“Those were unheard of back in the 60′s and ’70′s,” he says.

The super-sized saddles reflect the fact that Americans are fatter than ever.  More than a third of us are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The saddles are bigger and so are the butts,” says Lucille Nieslanik, owner of Broken Heart Ranch in Haugan, Montana -- a former dude ranch that now caters to hunters.  “When I was growing up, people walked more and just did more physical activity.”

Nieslanik says the saddles and customers “have definitely gotten bigger” since the business opened in 1976.  Now, she is careful to match up horses with customers so the animals are not strained.

But even the horses are getting bigger to accommodate fatter Americans.  Saddle-maker Klenda says dude ranch operators in Colorado are breeding draft horses with smaller stock so the animals can safely bear the strain of ever-larger riders.

At the K-Diamond-K guest ranch, 125 miles north of Spokane, Wash., owner Kathy McKay tells ABC News they are breeding Clydesdales -- made famous in those Budweiser commercials -- with quarter-horses just to make sturdier animals for bigger customers.  Otherwise, McKay says, overweight riders “really take a toll on those poor horses.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Stop Sugarcoating' Child Obesity Ads in Georgia Draw Controversy

Courtesy Children's Healthcare of Atlanta(ATLANTA) -- "Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid," read graphics of a TV ad in which a young girl tells of how she doesn't like going to school because she's bullied over her weight. It is part of a video and print campaign to combat childhood obesity in Georgia, which has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the nation.

But could the ads end up stigmatizing overweight kids instead of solving the problem?

"Blaming the victim rarely helps," said Dr. Miriam Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "These children know they are fat and that they are ostracized already."

Some public health experts fear Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life campaign is too blunt to cultivate action. Still, the group is standing by its decision to feature the ads to raise awareness about childhood obesity.

"We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there," said Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

An estimated one million children in Georgia are considered overweight, ranking the state second in the nation for childhood obesity.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta chose the straightforward approach after its survey of two towns in Georgia found that 50 percent of parents did not know childhood obesity was a problem, and 75 percent of parents with obese children did not think their child was overweight.

"If we do not wake up, this will be disastrous for our state," said Matzigkeit.

She said the health system often sees children come in with adult health issues like heart disease and joint pain that can be attributed to their weight.

"We are hearing parents say that it's time we do something about it," she said.

But certain variations of the ads may not be doing much to fix the problem, some experts argued. They pointed to one print ad, in particular, that says, "It's hard to be a little girl if you're not."

"While guilt and fear are motivators, they have to be meted out with the answer to the situation," Labbok said. "The ads with the children do not offer help to them."

According to health communication experts, successful public health campaigns offer a clear call to action.  Labbok says the Georgia ads address the problem, but don't give viewers a clear solution.

"There is no mention about what a parent can do other than to say 'stop sugarcoating the problem,'" said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, professor of pediatrics at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Get Up! Sitting Makes You Fat, Research Suggests

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- New research gives many of us yet another reason to get up off our desk chairs  and get moving.

The findings, published in Cell Physiology, suggest that the pressure placed in the buttocks and hips from sitting down for too long can generate up to 50 percent more fat in those areas.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University looked at MRI images of muscle tissue in people who had been paralyzed by spinal cord injuries and found that major amounts of fat cells stretched to surround the areas around the muscles that endured pressure from lying or sitting. The researchers then manipulated a group of fat cells to stretch and stay sedentary for long periods of time, representing the time spent sitting or lying down. After two weeks, they found that stretched cells produced nearly 50 percent more liquid fat than regular fat cells.

“These findings indicate that we need to take our cells’ mechanical environment into account as well as pay attention to calories consumed and burned,” Amit Gefen, one of the Tel Aviv researchers, told the U.K.’s Telegraph.

Previous research found that those who were bound to wheelchairs or were bedridden developed abnormal muscle and fat growth in areas of the body where more pressure was placed. But Gefen said this research could also translate to the not so extreme sedentary lifestyle.

Even those who eat well and exercise can suffer the consequences of a bigger butt and waistline if they stay seated for longer periods of time, according to this research. But forgo the exercise and become a couch potato and the results could be worse, Gefen told The Telegraph.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obese Third Grader Taken from Mom, Placed in Foster Care

Digital Vision/Thinkstock (file photo)(CLEVELAND) -- A Cleveland third grader who weighed more than 200 pounds was taken from his mother after officials reportedly said she did not do enough to help the boy -- who suffered from a weight-related health issue -- lose weight.

“They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don’t love my child,” the boy’s mother, who was not identified, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “It’s a lifestyle change and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that.  It is very hard, but I am trying.”

Officials first became aware of the boy’s weight after his mother took him to the hospital last year while he was having breathing problems, the newspaper reported.  The child was diagnosed with sleep apnea and began to be monitored by social workers while he was enrolled in a program called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight” at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

The boy lost a few pounds, but recently began to gain some back, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.  At that point, the Department of Children and Family Services asked a juvenile court for custody of the boy, citing his soaring weight as a form of medical neglect, according to the newspaper.

Taking obese children from their families has become a topic of intense debate over the past year after one high-profile pediatric obesity expert made controversial comments in the Journal of the American Medical Association advocating the practice in acute cases.

“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” Dr. David Ludwig co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

A trial is set for the boy’s ninth birthday next month to determine whether his mother will regain custody.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio