Fat is the New Normal

by Dr. Jonny Bowden on July 22, 2009 · 1 comment

By Dr. Jonny Bowden


“I found there was only one way to look thin, hang out with fat people.”


 – Rodney Dangerfield


Retailers would like to help us remain in a state of denial about our ever expanding waistlines.




It’s simple, actually. We don’t like facing up to the fact that we’re becoming fatter by the minute, and most of us don’t particularly like buying “fat clothes”. We’d prefer not to notice that those size 8 dresses that used to fit no longer do, or that when we try on those 32″ waist jeans that used to fit so well, they now feel like they were made for just one of our legs.


Retailers noticed and they have a solution.


They changed the sizes.


“In recent years”, writes Elizabeth Landau on CNN.com, “brands from the luxury names to the mass retail chains have scaled down the size labels on their clothing”. “You may actually be a size 14, and, according to whatever particular store you’re in, you come out a size 10” says Natalie Nixon, associate professor of fashion industry management at Philadelphia University.




Simple. It makes the consumer- you and me- feel good.


Participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 1988-1994 and participants in the survey for 1999-2004 were asked to identify themselves as “underweight”, “about right” or “overweight”; their answers were compared with the participants actual BMI, a measure of health risks associated with weight. (Calculate your BMI.)


Not surprisingly, the BMI of the general population increased from the early survey period to the later survey period, a good indication that as a population we’re getting fatter. (No surprise there.) But the probability of people describing themselves as overweight decreased in the later survey. In other words, folks were significantly less likely to identify themselves as overweight even while they were packing on the pounds.


“Fat” is the new “normal”.


Interestingly, women tended to have a slightly more realistic perception of themselves, but this may not reflect “healthy body image” campaigns. Rather, according to physician nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis, it’s the relative increase in weight of the general population that makes people with high BMI feel more normal.


But feeling normal while being overweight- which seems to be the trend- may decrease a person’s motivation to lose weight in the first place. And retailers subtly changing the size so that you don’t “notice” that you’re now a couple sizes larger than you were a few years ago, isn’t exactly a good reality check. In fact, it helps keep everyone in denial. It’s kind of like grading on a curve in school- if everyone in the class is getting 5 out of 10 questions wrong, the person scoring 6 right gets an A.


When it comes to weight, this kind of thinking doesn’t do anyone any good. Smoking “only” a pack a day isn’t any less of a health risk just because everyone around you is smoking 2 packs!


Weight loss may be one of the most challenging undertakings most of us can think of, but daunting or not, it’s one of the best things we can do for our health, our well-being, our energy and our longevity.


About the Author:  Jonny Bowden, PhD, C.N.S. is a board-certified nutrition specialist, author and nationally known expert on weight loss and nutrition.  His work has been endorsed by many well-known specialists of integrative medicine and nutrition including Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Barry Sears (who calls him “one of the best”) and Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, (who calls him “the personal health coach I would want in my corner no matter what”).  For more advice on staying fit and healthy, check out his site at JonnyBowden.com.


[Editor’s Comments:  And here I thought I was actually getting thinner. They changed the sizes? Really?


If you’ve noticed a little “funny business” with your clothing sizes, leave a Comment and let us know. I’d be interested to hear what you think.


Dr. Jonny says most people see “dieting” only in terms of calories, when in fact it should be a much deeper and more meaningful change in lifestyle.


This is one of the main reasons he designed his Diet Boot Camp to be about much more than food. It’s more about believing in yourself, changing your expectations for the long-term, and experiencing a complete lifestyle transformation.


If you’re interested in learning “real” strategies to improve your health, energy, and well-being…and want to do a lot more than just “diet”…check out Dr. Jonny’s Diet Boot Camp program.]


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Suzie July 22, 2009 at 9:11 am

This article is so right! I’ve worn size large tops for years. However shopping has become more difficult. I now have to try everything on in the store or spend gas returning to the store to exchange large tops for a smaller size. Am I a “medium” now? Not in my old clothes. And you are right – not at the cheaper stores…. but at the stores that want you to spend more money because your emotions respond to wearing a smaller size.

Another sad but true part of your article. I look around and think I’m not too bad for my age even though my weight has increased along with the general population. Sigh. You do make me think about making positive changes.

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