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Debunking 4 of the Top Obesity Myths

By , David F., SparkPeople Contributor

Obesity is a critical health issue affecting the quality of life of millions of Americans. Unfortunately, too many myths still persist that prevent Americans from tackling their obesity head-on. 

Myth: Genetics Are to Blame

Too many individuals still believe the tired myth that genetics are to blame for obesity. Can genetics play a role in weight gain? Of course they can! However, it is well known that obesity rates went sky high from 1980 to 2000. Needless to say, that rate is far too significant for genetic factors to be solely responsible for the sharp obesity increase. 

It is more accurate to point out that people simply eat more calories than they need on a daily basis. Fast food restaurants that tempt people into eating more food than necessary combine forces with sit-down restaurants that often provide entrees with higher calories than what families would prepare at home. As Americans continue to spend more money on food outside the home than they do on groceries and home-cooked meals, over-consumption is more likely to be blamed for obesity increases than genetics. 

Myth: Body Mass Index (BMI) Is the Most Accurate Obesity Indicator

BMI is far from an accurate indicator of obesity. If that were so, muscle-bound bodybuilders and professional football players would be obese. In reality, though, their body fat percentage is exceptionally low, despite the high number on the scale. In practical terms, BMI is not an accurate indicator of body fat because it does not take into account the ratio between an individual's muscle and body fat.

While an extremely high BMI may indicate obesity, in general it is a better bet to focus on other tests. Most people can even look in the mirror and know whether there is weight to lose, if they are being honest. As such, heavy individuals with a good deal of muscle should avoid putting too much stock in their BMI. 

Myth: Overweight People Cannot Be Healthy

This is a tired and untrue myth. Overweight people can actually be healthier than their thin counterparts. Imagine a gaunt and rail-thin person who eats poorly and doesn't exercise, and then imagine a powerlifter. While the powerlifter may well be overweight, the fact that they commit to fitness will make them healthier than a thin person who does not exercise and eats in an unhealthy way.

Myth: Skipping Meals Will Aid Weight Loss and Overall Health

Finally, too many people trying to lose weight buy into the notion that they should skip meals for weight loss. In fact, almost the exact opposite is true. Skipping meals can often lead to overeating at a later time. Furthermore, skipping meals over a longer period of time will mess with your body's metabolism and could sabotage your weight-loss efforts.

Eating regular meals throughout the day can actually help prevent obesity, as long as those meals are properly portioned for your daily caloric needs.

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KALISBACK 1/20/2020
I find it interesting that poor/overeating is always blamed on the obesity epidemic. What about the fact that nobody moves anymore! Everything has a drive-up now, so people don't have to get out of their cars. Or, they do everything online from a seated position. Banking, shopping, food from restaurants/fast food, groceries. Our town even has a drive thru ice cream stand and beverage center.

A day of errand use to mean a couple of hours of literally running around: running into the bank, running into the dry cleaners, running into the grocery store, running into the drug store. Now it means a couple of hours of sitting at your computer, ordering stuff and waiting to run to your front door when it gets delivered. Just saying...... Report
JAMER123 12/11/2019
Thank you for sharing. Report
HILLCHICK222 11/2/2019
This is an incredibly irresponsible oversimplification of a serious issue. Many Sparkers are making genuine efforts to address and reverse their obesity. If we used this quality of information to do so, our chances of success would be abysmal. Report
GABY1948 9/21/2019
Thanks Report
GREEN_EYES2 9/8/2019
Thanks for this information Report
True Report
Comparing a powerlifter to a rail-thin person who eats poorly & doesn't exercise is a very weak argument, does nothing to explode the myth about being overweight & (un) healthy. It needs a REALISTIC comparison--rail-thin poor-eating non-exerciser compared to obese non-exerciser to make a legitimate comparison.
That kind of slioppy thinking PROMOTES myths; dispelling them needs better ammunition. Report
Actually, the more we learn about epigenetics, the more we realize that it's not just what you eat, or what your mother ate, but also what your father ate, what your grandparents ate, what your great grandparents ate, and so forth and so on.

So yes, "obesity rates went sky high from 1980 to 2000," but that's not just because of food from 1980 to 2000. Rather, we're beginning to learn, it's a culmination of 1900 to 2000, or farther. It's really quite interesting. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
thanks Report
Thanks Report
Very interesting! Report
Great article very useful Report
Good article. It's kind of sad that some people still believe a lot of the myths Report
great article Report
Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.
- Aristotle Report
The greatest wealth is health. - Virgil Report
Thank you. Report
Thanks for this information Report
i have a serious issue with the statement that skipping meals leads to overeating later in the day. i sometimes eat breakfast and sometimes don't. many days that i skip breakfast, i find that i don't get even a little hungry until early afternoon, at which time i eat lunch. i log my food and NEVER go over on my calorie range. the days i do eat breakfast, i often feel hungry by mid morning and find it much harder to keep from "grazing" most of the day. these generalized statements are ridiculous. what are the credentials of the people making these claims and what is the science supporting them?

don't even get me started on bmi!! Report
Thanks for the information! Report
Good info. There is so much hype out there we need to be careful. Report
Interesting article. Report
Thes are good basic tips Report
Good information Report
Thanks for the information. Report
I love the "Myth: Overweight People Cannot Be Healthy". Back in the US I would get an annual physical with blood work. I was fat, not bodybuilder overweight, just fat - and getting fatter. Every year the doctors would tell me my weight increased and my blood work was going to be bad. Then they would pull up the lab results, do a double take, and unhappily tell me my blood work was better than the last year...but I still should lose weight. I would laugh and tell them that stress free living kept my blood work looking good. I have lost a lot of weight since then, I need to get my numbers checked now ha ha

Surprisingly, when I was in the Navy (Bush 41 era), they used BMI and all the bodybuilders were "obese". You would think they would make allowances for muscles. I hope they do now. Report
Thanks. Report
I have overweight and obese family members on both sides but I will not say I am obese due to genetics. Lack of education and understanding the correlation of food and exercise habits is one factor and just not understanding diet is another. I had no idea what a calorie really was till about 5 years ago. In school yes we learned about the food groups but not about nutrition. Yes in P.E. we did different activities but nothing on how it relates to our health. I had a lot of people in my life tell me I just needed to eat less and since I ate one meal a day at dinner time and a couple snacks in the evening I went down the path of not eating for several days at a time to lose weight. The show You Are What You Eat was my start for learning how to take better care of myself. It is a long road and sometimes I still go back to bad habits but at least now I understand where I am going wrong and can reign it back in. It is not always about how much you eat but what you eat. You can eat smaller amounts and still gain weight if you are not eating correctly and not exercising. Report
Where is SP getting all these "guest bloggers" for only have a first name and initial? I'd like to see some of the references for many claims in this article. Genetics? Definitely a factor and something that needs to be studied in more depth. Some of the newer information coming out about people who don't eat breakfast don't support the claims made here, either. Just my thoughts today! Report
Genetics: Obesity runs in both sides of the family. I've been obese since the age of 2. I've been on more diets than I can remember. I'm 65...it took until this year to be my high school weight 198. I can't seem to budge the scale, but managed to lose 27 inches to my 25 pounds weight loss.

BM: Is just a guideline...it changes for athletes, short stature people. I omits the Black race...not just africians, but cubans, jamacians, domicians etc. so again it's just a guideline...the same for blood pressure..it's not the same for blacks.

SKIPPING MEALS...when I have eaten my quota for the day..I stop eating. But I always made sure I ate at 9pm. in order to sleep all night.

The bad habits we have done throughout our lives needs to be more addressed. Like ghrelin the hunger hormone that wants satiety and hunger satisified...It's a "if you don't satisify me", "you'll get headaches, nausea, go into ketosis, faint, cause depression and anxiety and just a part of it. Ghrelin tells the stomach to eat, the stomach is CONNECTED to the brain. so it's a war between the stomach and the brain...it's not our IMAGINATION. It has taken me 47 adult years to learn this. Now that I'm 65 I'm not suppose to go on a diet...someone's crazy...not me. Report
About genetics my Dad was a "fat bastard" and HIS Dad was a "fat bastard" so what are the odds I can stay thin ???? Report
Good article - short and to the point.
Most people tend to underestimate the calories they consume and overestimate what they burn through exercise.

As for BMI, I keep hearing the excuse "I have a lot of muscle." Bodybuilders and professional athletes are a tiny percentage of the population. As I look around, our society is NOT experiencing an epidemic of too much muscle.

A few ticks into the BMI overweight category isn't a health risk, but if year after year, decade after decade, it just keeps increasing, you owe it to yourself to figure out why and reverse the trend. Report
PRUSSIANETTE, right there with you. I wear a Body Media armband and track all my food. so I know that I burn more than I eat. Yet the weight stays on. So far no one has figured out why, and I don't think my doctor even believes me. We can add "calorie deficits always lead to weight loss" to the list of myths. Report
Oh, so true! My daughter dieted this year and lost about 30 pounds - using the Atkins diet and exercise. However, now she is have health problems - she lost actually too fast and exercised too hard.
And now she is after me to lose and I am actually healthier than she is.
(She is a nurse and so often wants to "diagnose" my ills). But i know she only wants the best for me.
Wish SP wouldn't use BMI as the scale for determining weight status since, as said above, it is not the most accurate indicator. Report
Thanks for the comments on the BMI and that overweight people can be healthy. Although I will admit to being overweight, since I have strength trained for 25 years, my muscle mass is much greater than most women, so the BMI is not an accurate measure of "how much" I am overweight. I would also like to point out I have just had a physical done with my primary care physician and he was absolutely ecstatic about all my test results (4 pages of tests I had done)--blood sugar, A1C, cholesterol, liver function, kidney function, etc. -- all were in the normal range, many in what is considered the "optimal" range. I also need to point out I feel great and have no joint pain which is often common with people of my age and/or weight.

However, although I agree with your comments that genetics (i.e. there really isn't a "fat" gene that totally controls your weight destiny). I think your eating-too-much as a root cause is just as simplistic for many (although I will admit not all) people.

I do not overeat. The doctors and health consultants I have been too have been very frustrated with getting to the root cause of my problem. I exercise and eat very healthy -- my numbers would not be so good if I wasn't doing these things. However, two numbers, my ferritin level and my CRP numbers are higher than normal. I have Celiac disease and my sister has sarcoidosis, so autoimmune diseases run in the family. I was tested for hemochromatosis and although I am a carrier, it is not felt that I have the disease as further iron-related tests did not show the indicators.

So, it is felt by my health care providers that I have some inflammation somewhere in my body due to the autoimmune disease family history I have and the weight retention could be at least partially due to a protective mechanism response of the body. However, since, as I indicated I had four pages of health tests done and everything else is within the normal, and most within the optimal, range, it has been difficult to track down "exactly" where the inflammation could be.

My whole point on the above is that I will continue my healthy lifestyle since I could go downhill fast if I don't. I just need to accept it may be difficult to lose weight and just focus on all the other measures of a healthy person--but not the BMI :)

It really is a pity that so many corporations forcibly submit their employees to an annual BMI test for "health insurance reasons". And, it is also a pity that so many people look at people my size and assume that I am living an unhealthy lifestyle and making bad choices, when in fact, I could actually be healthier than they are. Report
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