100 lb. Club - People's perception of obesity




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paris81
08-07-2010, 10:16 AM
Hey all! This is a bit long, please indulge me!

So I'm wondering about what experiances you have with people's perception of what obesity looks like (specifically non-obese people). Here's the scenario that's confusing me:

I've started online dating. I have a two pictures of myself on the site, one that is a full body picture. I'm sitting down, but you can certainly see my large thighs and my wide body! (gotta be honest, it's what I look like right now!) In fact, the picture was taken a few months ago when I was at 235lbs. So in this picture, I'm obese.

There's a rating system on the site where if you give someone 4 or 5 stars and they give you the same rating (based on pics and profile), then you get a message telling you that the other person rated you highly. There are also many, many questions that people answer, one of which is "Would you date someone overweight?" It's multiple choice.

So the confusing thing to me is that I'll often get the high 4 or 5 star rating from someone who answered the question saying that they would date someone who was overweight, as long as they weren't obese. But they've seen my picture!

So do people not realize what obese means? do they assume that it's much heavier than it actually is? I mean, I was surprised to find out that at my height, I'm obese at anything over 185 (I think that's the number somewhere around there anyway).

Experiances with this? thoughts? Comments?


ThicknPretty
08-07-2010, 10:34 AM
I didn't realize what obesity "looked" like until I realized that I, at 214 pounds, was obese. I was baffled. Obese is such a...scary, serious word. I had always thought of myself as a fat, chunky, overweight, but by no means obese.

I don't think that many people, especially those who have not struggled with weight, have a good idea of what obese is. Most people picture someone over 300 pounds riding the motorized cart in Wal-Mart when they picture obesity...in fact, so many more people are obese than we realize!

souvenirdarling
08-07-2010, 10:35 AM
Hmmm. I think that when I use the word obese, I usually mean morbidly obese. I do find it hard to distinguish the difference between healthy weight/overweight/obese/morbidly obese, which may be because of my own distorted view of my own weight.


Eliana
08-07-2010, 10:38 AM
Yeah, I agree that I don't think anyone has a good picture of obese. I stopped feeling obese around 200 pounds (size 16) and felt like I looked just overweight. Now here I am still 25 pounds overweight and I feel like I look normal.

The trouble is that our bodies know what our eyes do not.

Justwant2Bhealthy
08-07-2010, 11:43 AM
I agree that there is great confusion over these labels; and I think that too many people are called obese when they are really just overweight. The new thing today is to call everyone that is overweight, "morbidly obese"; and I hear way too many people here referring to themselves as such, when they are not.

Medically, morbidly obese is usually referring to anyone at least or more than 100 lbs overweight, when in the past it referred to those who were hundreds of lbs overweight and/or deathly ill. So it is no wonder society at large is confused by the terms being used today.

Fortunately, many more men today actually don't mind or even prefer someone with some cushioning on their frame; but like they said, they don't mind some -- but just not a whole lot ... ;)

Shmead
08-07-2010, 11:44 AM
There is "social obese" (and"social overweight") and "medically obese" (and "medically overweight"). The first is a function of a particular individual/cultural context: the second is more objective.

For many people, frankly, I think obese means "fat past the point of sexuality", where ever that cut off might be for them personally (people have the same idea about what "old" means--however old you are, "old" are all those people older enough than you that you can't think of them sexually).

It also varies by location. I call myself "Texas normal" these days because in TX, at the age of 33, I am really very, very normal. I would be overweight on a beach in France, or in a park in Colorado Springs.

Part of the reason people dislike BMI is that it only describes your medical status (and that somewhat inexactly). It does not describe your attractiveness, your social weight. The fact of the matter is that someone who is 10 lbs medically overweight may look absolutely smoking hot (especially if they are proportional), but studies do suggest they would be slightly healthier if they lost those 10 lbs. Someone in a normal BMI range would not benefit from losing 10 lbs in the same way. So they are medically overweight but not socially overweight.

ShellydeFlores
08-07-2010, 12:08 PM
I didn't realize what obesity "looked" like until I realized that I, at 214 pounds, was obese. I was baffled. Obese is such a...scary, serious word. I had always thought of myself as a fat, chunky, overweight, but by no means obese.

I don't think that many people, especially those who have not struggled with weight, have a good idea of what obese is. Most people picture someone over 300 pounds riding the motorized cart in Wal-Mart when they picture obesity...in fact, so many more people are obese than we realize!

This is exactly how I see it as well. People see obesity as a the "weeble wobble" person with cankles who needs to get around the grocery in a motorized chair. At my highest (287) I was morbidly obese. When I asked a couple of my trusted friends whether I looked fat or obese, they would say chubby. Of course this was to save my feelings from the word fat but the point is their view of obestity was askew too.

It's unfortunate but our vision of overweight and obese has been messed up for years so I can't expect much from others if I didn't know that I was obese too.

LLH2010
08-07-2010, 12:08 PM
You have to think that nowadays being overweight is kind of the norm. That's what we are used to seeing. So when we see someone overweight we think they're normal, obese and we think they're overweight, correct weight and they must be anorexic. That's a little exaggerated but pretty much correct.

paris81
08-07-2010, 12:39 PM
Thanks for the feedback! It is so interesting that people just really have no idea what these terms mean medically speaking!

I like what you say, Schmead, about social weight. I guess these men who rate me this way while answering the question in a contradiction don't see me as obese, just overweight. It's so strange, and makes me feel a bit conflicted, but I guess as long as they think I'm attractive the way I am, the label isn't terribly important.

Plus, I'm working on not being obese anymore anyway!

Aclai4067
08-07-2010, 01:26 PM
I think your social circle is also a big factor. In my group of friends I'm probably "social overweight" but in my sisters group I'm like "social super morbidly obese." Not that they are mean to me or do anything to try and make me feel that way, but seriously they think Miranda Lambert is fat. Here are pics if you don't know who that is (I hadn't heard of her til I moved to Nashville): http://www.zimbio.com/Miranda+Lambert/pictures/pro

Eliana
08-07-2010, 01:57 PM
Also, we don't wear our weights on our forehead. ;) Obviously these men do find you attractive, and why not?!

I have to remind myself about not wearing my weight on my forehead. I'm at a point where I think I'm heavier than I look so I have to let that number go.

pamatga
08-07-2010, 02:25 PM
Again, it is really social perception. I am aging myself here but when I first gained weight over two decades ago, I was really alone in my being overweight or actually obese. I had a hard time finding attractive clothes etc. Now, the interesting thing is that society or our country anyway has caught up and now obesity is almost the norm. Recent stat was that 60% of the U.S. population is obese. Now, that I am on the way down, I have such a different perspective. I keep trying to remember where my goal is. I am expecting some anoxeric remarks when I am but honestly I will finally be in my normal BMI range. How strange is that?

ChubbyBun
08-07-2010, 02:25 PM
My experience has been that men generally have no concept of female weight, let alone what is considered obese haha.

Maybe it's just me, but I've never met a guy who was a good and fair judge of weight. I think men, and most people, judge weight subjectively and not from a health/medical standard. I think they take other factors such as their own preferences into consideration when judging someone's weight. And I think often times obese is used as an ugly term for large people who they aren't particularly attracted to, rather than an actual term to measure weight. Or maybe just anyone overweight. It's used so loosely and so often now days that I wouldn't be surprised if most people thought it literally means "fat" in any sense.

I wouldn't question it though if guys you like don't consider you obese. It's a good thing! :)

paris81
08-07-2010, 03:23 PM
Yes, I suppose I shouldn't question it! I guess it all comes with the social weirdness and extra bad body issues that come from being obese...gotta get over it! And I can, at least on the surface if I think about it objectivly. But when I really think about, I just don't understand why they'd be interested, which I suppose is where my concerns come from!

kaplods
08-07-2010, 03:24 PM
I think people in the dating context (both men and women) are using the word in a different context. The don't mean obese in the clinical sense (they're not using it as a medical term). Rather, they mean obese in the sense of "(s)he's too fat for me." That is their definition of obesity is the line (often very subjective) they personally draw between attractive and unattractive.

It's much like the definition of art or pornography for that matter for many people, "I'll know it when I see it."

I have a friend whose BMI puts her in the clinically obese category (weighs 225 lbs at 5'8"), but not even a medical doctor would call her obese by looking at her. She's extremely fit (she has arms I'd kill for), a kickboxer and runner. Her body fat percentage I would guarantee doesn't hit even the clinical obese category (but her BMI does), though she does carry some padding in her boobs and thighs. She could in theory lose that weight, but I don't understand why she'd want to (I can't imagine health or beauty reasoning). She's "dense" obviously (far more muscle than fat).

Then again, maybe I'm biased (though I'm in good company, because I'm not the only person male or female who's asked her why she calls herself fat).

Fat really is in the eye of the beholder.

paris81
08-07-2010, 03:29 PM
Ha! I love that "I'll know it when I see it!"

saef
08-07-2010, 03:49 PM
Shmead: Your division of "obese" into medically obese and socially obese ... that's brilliant. Thank you, thank you for writing that. Given my life experience, I can't help pondering about obesity a lot of the time. (Way too much of the time, in fact.) It's like my hobby to think about it & its meaning & effects. So this was a wonderfully sensible concept, because it fits in with what we've been saying about being obese in one's peer group or community or geographic area. (Which I've said before, I experience in my own life as feeling thin when I'm back in my hometown in Upstate NY & feeling heavy when I'm in Manhattan & the Westchester suburbs. Without any corresponding change in the scale. Put me on a yoga mat in my regular gym & I'm a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon. Send me Upstate & walking around the State Fair at Syracuse, and I'm svelte & refusing all the kettle corn & spiedies & Buffal wings.)

dragonwoman64
08-07-2010, 03:52 PM
For many people, frankly, I think obese means "fat past the point of sexuality", where ever that cut off might be for them personally (people have the same idea about what "old" means--however old you are, "old" are all those people older enough than you that you can't think of them sexually).

yeah, that's interesting. I just saw a preview on a dvd I rented for a French movie. It's about an older couple, I think in their 70s, guessitimating that, and the wife has been married for 50 odd years to the same man. then she meets and falls in love with another man. it's very sexual.

as I get older, what I think is sexy has definitely changed.

I asked my bf about this (sort of) topic today (he's not overweight), he said the guys he knew in college didn't make a big deal about dating women who were thin, and they didn't put that much emphasis on a woman's weight. I agree guys don't seem to have a clear idea of real numbers when it comes to that. They go by what they see (and like or don't like). And obviously they like you! ;)

caryesings
08-07-2010, 04:09 PM
Shmead's defintion is dead on. Excellent.

And Paris81, I too have just entered the online dating world and finding it very disconcerting. I had originally posted a head shot of me 100 lbs heavier as it was the only digital picture I had. Within a week I had posted a few pictures that were more timely, about 75 lbs down and "winks" and introductory e-mails dropped off to nearly nothing. Updated with a picture from a few weeks ago when I hit 97 lbs down and got quite a lot of attention, but bizarrely, mostly from 30-35 year olds (I'm 50).

I've really hated what this process of putting myself out there has done to my new weight loss inspired confidence. I go from feeling like I'm hot stuff to "nobody wants me" in short order. Luckily I keep picking myself up and trying again and tonight am going out on my first live date with someone I've met on line.

Good luck to both of us in this brave weird new world.

Shmead
08-07-2010, 04:33 PM
Shmead: Your division of "obese" into medically obese and socially obese ... that's brilliant.

Thank you for your kind words. I was thinking about your observation of NYC vs upstate NY when I wrote them.


More thoughts: I think this is why people resist/resent BMI so much, even though, medically speaking, it is pretty accurate for the vast majority of people. When the BMI says they are 10-15 lbs overweight, they think it is saying they are "socially" overweight--which quickly translates into "you are fat and ugly, your mom is embarrassed and no decent man would sleep with you". People look in the mirror and they see that that isn't true--they aren't "socially overweight", so they decide BMI must be crazy. But it's not--it's just saying that your health would be somewhat improved if you lost those 10-15 lbs--in the same way your health would be somewhat improved if you got more sleep, wore SPF 30 sunblock every day without fail, ate more fiber, or got that well-woman checkup annually instead of every 18-24 months. It doesn't mean you have to, or that you are a bad person if you don't. It's just a factor.

Analogously: Today I told my sleeping husband I was turning the light on "for a second" to find my shoes. Obviously, the light was on for more than a scientific second--probably 10 seconds or so--but that's the length of a "social second", and if he'd corrected me and said "that was more like 5-10 seconds", would anyone have blamed me for rolling my eyes? This is the same thing.

Eliana
08-07-2010, 04:39 PM
Put me on a yoga mat in my regular gym & I'm a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon. Send me Upstate & walking around the State Fair at Syracuse, and I'm svelte & refusing all the kettle corn & spiedies & Buffal wings.
Oh, thank you for that!! How is it that I'm that Macy's balloon in my Spin class but I come home and look in the mirror and think I look pretty good?! Or walking into any mall I feel like I look pretty normal, but step inside an individual store and suddenly I'm the amazon woman. :dizzy:

paris81
08-07-2010, 05:16 PM
And Paris81, I too have just entered the online dating world and finding it very disconcerting. I had originally posted a head shot of me 100 lbs heavier as it was the only digital picture I had. Within a week I had posted a few pictures that were more timely, about 75 lbs down and "winks" and introductory e-mails dropped off to nearly nothing. Updated with a picture from a few weeks ago when I hit 97 lbs down and got quite a lot of attention, but bizarrely, mostly from 30-35 year olds (I'm 50).


Good luck to both of us in this brave weird new world.

This is crazy! So you got more attention with pics of you at a higher weight? What is with this world? It could be the timing though--I've heard that if your profile is new, you get lots of attention, and then it slows down. So that timing may have conincided with your picture change.

I've been out with several guys since I started about two months ago, a few second dates, and one third, but that's it. It's a process, I guess, and my main goal is just to get comfortable with dating (which I've avoided all my life!). In that respect, I've been sucessful!

Good luck to you on your date!

kaplods
08-07-2010, 05:31 PM
, so they decide BMI must be crazy. But it's not--it's just saying that your health would be somewhat improved if you lost those 10-15 lbs--in the same way your health would be somewhat improved if you got more sleep, wore SPF 30 sunblock every day without fail, ate more fiber, or got that well-woman checkup annually instead of every 18-24 months. It doesn't mean you have to, or that you are a bad person if you don't. It's just a factor.


BMI really shouldn't be used to "say that," either because it's not the most accurate indicator of health and fitness, because it doesn't distinguish between the weight of fat and that of muscle. A person who is overweight or even obese by BMI alone, may not really be. Athletes tend to have more lean muscle mass, and are often "obese" by BMI - yet their health would not be improved by losing weight, because the only weight ttey have to lose is muscle.


My husband has a friend who is "obese" by BMI standards, and when he asked his doctor if he needed to lose weight, his doctor laughed. He got out the calipers and told him that he was in a healthy body fat range, but could lose up to 10 lbs and still be in a healthy body fat percentage, but the doctor said he wouldn't recommend losing any more. The guy did lose those 10 lbs, and he's still in the "obese" category, but has no fat to lose. If he lost more fat, he'd actually be too lean. This guy is "ripped" - six pack abs, defined pecs, calves that are mesmerizing, a complete "hard-body" (even before the 10 lb loss he didn't just look ok shirtless and in shorts, he's body-builder, beach body lean).


I wish I had a photo to send you guys, because no kidding. Shirtless in shorts, he's scary, jaw-dropping, beach-body gorgeous, and any fat he actually has on his body (you have to have some to survive, let alone be healthy) is well-hidden. You can see the definition in absolutely every muscle. He's crazy athletic though, and is a gym-rat (both weight-training and aerobic), and he hikes and camps too. I've never actually seen the man sit down. He always paces and gestures with his hands and arms too. He's in constant motion.

In order to lose weight, he would have to lose muscle. His doctor told him that he has an ideal body composition (even with the former ten pounds he was still in a healthy fat composition).

BMI isn't entirely bogus, but if you have more muscle than average it's going to overestimate your body fat percentage. Not many of us can say we fall into that category (I doubt I ever will), but I've met several people that blow BMI out of the water as an indicator of health and fitness.

BMI is just a "short-hand" guesstimate. There are some BMIs that are so extreme that anyone at that BMI has to be at an unhealthy weight (either overfat or under weight), but there are many in the overweight and obese categories that aren't overweight at all - because they have more muscle tissue than the average.

BMI is less accurate than body fat analysis - it's just a lot esier to calculate.

ChunkyDunk78
08-07-2010, 05:44 PM
OKCupid.com is like that too... and I have had similar experiences.
Even over 300 lbs, some guys just did not see me as THAT heavy/big.

Then again, when I was much smaller (long ago, and under 200 lbs), I knew some guys who were probably around 250, etc that considered me to be REALLY fat.

paris81
08-07-2010, 06:11 PM
Yeah, OkCupid is the site I'm on...glad to hear someone else had a simliar experiance!

caryesings
08-07-2010, 06:28 PM
This is crazy! So you got more attention with pics of you at a higher weight? What is with this world? It could be the timing though--I've heard that if your profile is new, you get lots of attention, and then it slows down. So that timing may have conincided with your picture change.



Could have been the timing thing, but as traffic went back up with latest picture, I suspect I crossed a dating category when I initially dropped below 200 lbs (the 75 lbs down set). Not big enough for the guys who liked a fuller figure, but too big for the guys who are looking for "toned" and "slender" categories.

I'd describe myself now at 168 as toned AND curvy, but that's not a choice on the site I'm using.

Thanks for the good wishes, heading out now to meet up. Gulp.

paris81
08-07-2010, 08:18 PM
Could have been the timing thing, but as traffic went back up with latest picture, I suspect I crossed a dating category when I initially dropped below 200 lbs (the 75 lbs down set). Not big enough for the guys who liked a fuller figure, but too big for the guys who are looking for "toned" and "slender" categories.

I'd describe myself now at 168 as toned AND curvy, but that's not a choice on the site I'm using.

Thanks for the good wishes, heading out now to meet up. Gulp.

Interesting analysis of this divide in men's attractions! I'll really have to keep this in mind as I lose weight!

Have fun! Let us know how it goes!

caryesings
08-07-2010, 11:28 PM
Reporting in after date. Had a wonderful time. Fun to get dressed for an evening out with the idea of showcasing my assets rather than worrying about "looking fat".

Oddly, I confessed my weight loss. I had been looking forward to meeting someone who didn't know me as a fat girl but came out when I was explaining my 18 year gap in dating history.

ubergirl
08-08-2010, 08:52 AM
I agree Shmead that you nailed it with the "social obesity/medical obesity" designation.

As a young woman I was socially obese at 165 lbs or a BMI of 25 because the norm in my social set was to be very slim.

I somehow decided that 150 was "overweight" and 160 was "obese." When I weighed 170, a weight I'd LOVE to weigh now, I was embarrassed and ashamed.

I notice the weird disconnect that Saef is talking about in my life as well-- at work, about an hour from home, I am rather slimmer than most. At home, I'm still a little chubby.

There is no doubt that obesity has been socially normed here. It is MUCH easier to be overweight now that it was in 1980.

Case in point, my mom dragged some clothes out of her drawer for me to try on.... I could fit nicely into a pair of size 12 Not Your Daughter's jeans that were a year or two old, but a really cute size 14 jeans skirt that was probably at least 20 years old-- NO WAY, confirming my memory that I could not wear a size 14 when I weighed more than 175.

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is MUCH easier now to be twenty or thirty pounds overweight. You will look more socially attractive, blend into the crowd more easily, and find clothing to wear more easily.

On the other hand, the social norming of overweight and obesity does raise questions about our lifestyle and whether this is not a very bad thing for people in the long run.

As painful was it was to bust out of normal sized clothes as soon as I hit a BMI of 25 or so, at least it did give me a very concrete sense of what it meant to gain 15 lbs.

I think that someone who is 20 lbs overweight, but does not feel socially obese is probably much better off than a person who carries those same 20 lbs and feels overweight, with all of the social stigma attached.

On the other hand, the person who feels the stigma of 20 extra pounds may be more likely to lose them, which is health-promoting in the long run.

redreine
08-08-2010, 11:22 AM
Ahahaha! I'm on okc too, and I know what you mean!

I've had a lot of issue with this "morbidly obese" label. Everyone I tell that I am morbidly obese, jumps all over me like I'm lying. I'm between 5'5 and 5'6, and I weigh 253. (I weighed 293 at my HW)

It was very rare for me to find someone who would look at me and genuinely think I was morbidly obese. I definitely get "healthy-looking" more than anything.

saef
08-08-2010, 11:47 AM
Oh, Uber, do I ever know what you mean. In my mother's house, Upstate, my former bedroom has remained pretty much intact, though I haven't lived there for a long, long time. There are clothes folded in the dresser drawers & hanging in the closet. They date back to my days working in law firms, thus, they are of good quality, were originally bought as "investment pieces" & were hard for me to get rid of, even when I was long past the point of fitting in them. Anyway, I had become a newspaper reporter & then a tech writer, back in the dot-com days, when dress codes at tech firms were pretty much nonexistent. (I mean, people kept titanium scooters in their office, wore flip-flops & brought their dogs to work. In such an atmosphere, silk designer blouses were pointless.) So the clothes remain, ghosts of a former self.

Well, when my father was dying of cancer, getting hospice care at home, as he said he wanted, I moved back into my old bedroom for the last two months of his life, so I could help care for him. And after he died, I rummaged in my old closet for a black dress. (Because one is hardly in the mood for a shopping spree after leaving the appointment with the funeral director early so that someone can be there when hospice arrives to pick up the hospital bed.)

I knew I had a really nice black dress, in a size 10. I could remember it being rather roomy on me, years ago, like it was a generous 10, and then outgrowing it completely, at a size 6. So I put on this size 10, being a contemporary size 10, thinking, "No problem. This dress was always a bit big." Oh my God. Yes it fit, but I had to take a needle & thread & sew it up to reinforce some of the buttons, fearing they'd burst open at an innoportune moment. Like, I didn't want my clothing to split wide open while I dropped down on the kneeler at the coffin ... not to get too black-humored, but you know what I mean.

The funeral was weird anyway. Lots of people hadn't seen New Thin Me till then. They didn't recognize me. Then they'd hug me, murmuring "I'm so sorry ...." (while I hoped those buttons held) and then a minute later, "God, you look great." Because, at funerals, people tend to get chatty & lapse back into real life & catch up with news of old friends whom they never see otherwise.

But yeah, that dress taught me all about vanity sizing. Which I knew about, of course, because I used to buy vintage clothes. But it's one thing to know it about clothes made in the 1910s-early 1960s & another thing to know it went on happening in one's own lifetime. So now I know that a size 10 in 1992 was nowhere near a size 10 in 2010.

ubergirl
08-08-2010, 03:51 PM
Gosh-- nothing worse than being at your father's funeral AND busting out of your dress.:hug::hug: