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Published:August 3rd, 2006 12:00 EST
But I Eat Healthy!

But I Eat Healthy!

By Maria Grella

A telephone survey found that over three-quarters of obese people say they have healthy eating habits, with 40 percent claiming that they participate in "vigorous" exercise at least three times a week.

The results also concluded that 28 percent of obese Americans reported snacking two to three times a day, slightly higher than 24 percent of those at a normal weight who snack the same amount.

So what gives?  Dr. David Schutt of the Thomson Medstat firm says it's those surveyed whose perception is slightly skewed.  "There is, perhaps, some denial going on. Or there is a lack of understanding of what does it mean to be eating healthy, and what is vigorous exercise." 

The survey was performed by Thomson Medstat, a health care research facility based in Michigan.  Thomson Medstat collects and analyzes data for the federal government and about 20 states, regarding health projects. Those surveyed were contacted through random digital dialing from January through March. The surveyors depended on the respondents to be honest about their height, weight and other answers.  The review, being marketed to employees, hospitals and other customers, is not being published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.

What the study neglected to ask was the quality and quantity factors; what people ate and how much they consumed was left out.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of Americans are overweight, and nearly one-third qualify as obese.  Obesity is determined by a calculation of a person's height and weight, called BMI, or body-mass index.  Of the 11,000 people contacted, about 3,800 were of normal weight, with 200 underweight. On the other spectrum, 4,200 people were overweight, with 3,100 of them obese or morbidly obese. 

The findings of the review were surprising; the numbers weren't drastically different.  The responses from both overweight and obese individuals were similar to normal and underweight persons.  While just 19 percent of obese people said they always read nutritional labels, it falls in comparison to the 24 percent of normal weighted people.  Another example was the percentages of those dining at restaurants three or more times a week.  Those at a normal weight landed at 25 percent, while obese individuals answered roughly the same at 29.

The one large difference in answers was regarding restaurant portions.  The question was how often do you eat all of the food you are served at restaurants? Nearly 41 percent of larger Americans said they always did, while 31 percent of thinner respondents said the same.