• Is Being Overweight Bad for You? The Effects of Weight and Weight Status on Self-Reported Health

      Condran, Gretchen; Condran, Gretchen; Klugman, Joshua; Bachmeier, James D. (Temple University. Libraries, 2017)
      For nearly three decades, public health officials have been telling Americans that being overweight or obese is extremely dangerous for their health and well-being through public services announcements, popular health news articles, and scientific studies – all decrying the “obesity epidemic” plaguing the United States. In this same period, mean Body Mass Indexes and rates of overweight and obesity in the US have either increased or remained steady, but have seen no wide-spread reversal in direction. Thus, despite public health officials’ diligent efforts, Americans do not seem to be responding to these messages. Any number of causal mechanisms could explain this; however, we should consider the possibility that Americans simply do not believe that being “fat,” “heavy,” or “overweight” is bad for their health. In this dissertation, we ask the question “do you think that being overweight is bad for your health?” by analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2012 – an era in which the frequency of publication on the obesity epidemic reached a record high. Ultimately, we find that Americans are more likely to associate their own status as overweight individuals with lower self-reported health when this status is defined through multiple avenues at once: being clinically overweight, perceiving themselves as overweight persons, and having clinicians tell them directly that they are overweight. Saying “being overweight or obese is unhealthy” is not enough. If Americans do not believe that they are overweight, and if they do not receive personal counsel from medical professionals about their weight status, then they are unlikely to change their opinion of their overall personal health status in light of their status as overweight or obese individuals. Anti-obesity and weight-awareness advocacy has established the mantra: being fat is bad for you. The challenge for public health officials now is to raise awareness about what overweight and obesity truly mean, and to convince clinicians to become much more determined in upholding clinical weight guidelines and informing their patients of their weight statuses.