Women And Weight: Living In A Hall Of Mirrors

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This is not original with me, but what if all women living in the U.S. wore their weight written on small placards around their necks?

(Mine would say “150.” Let’s just get that out there.)

Would that make life any easier? Because if you are a female living in the United States, when it comes to weight, you’re living in a hall of mirrors.

The average Hollywood actress, if you can believe the trades, is somewhere between sizes 4 and 6. The average weight of the American woman, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a little over 166 pounds. That’s well beyond a size 6.

So what’s the average weight of Washington’s female representatives and senators? We don’t know. It’s not important. See how that works?

And what’s the average weight of UConn Husky women’s basketball team? The online official roster lists the players’ height, but unlike the players on the men’s team, the women’s weight isn’t recorded on the team roster. By way of comparison, the UConn women’s volleyball online roster doesn’t list players’ weight, either, though the UConn football team’s roster does.

Women on scale

I’m going to guess that most of the women Huskies are heavier than the national average, and it’s a pity that information is not easily accessible. Little girls could use the information.

Children as young as 10 are showing up with eating disorders. New research from Florida State University shows that the younger a girl starts to diet, the greater the likelihood she’ll develop weight issues later, including eating disorders such as anorexia. The study asked college-aged women when they first started dieting.

The youngest age for dieting? Age 3.

Weight may be the most important topic we never discuss fruitfully, though it’s never far from our minds.

A recent survey of 700 women showed that slightly more than half (52 percent) said they had been bullied about their weight at least once in their lives. A quarter of them said they suffered ill treatment “frequently,” including in the workplace. Eighty percent of the women were bullied for being overweight.

Researchers asked 50 women of size to record a week’s worth of incidences when they were made to feel – well – small about their sizes. Researchers included Dooti Roy, who on behalf of University of Connecticut’s statistical consulting team was responsible for the statistical analysis done for the paper. The results, published earlier this year in the Journal of Health Psychology, were heartbreaking. The women reported 1,077 incidences, including physical barriers and rude comments. The story, said Roy, needed to be told.

No one is arguing that obesity is good. Extra weight opens the door to a host of health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The Milken Institute School of Public Health says that obesity-related health care cost range from $147 billion (also with a b) to $210 billion each year. It’s a fine line to walk between advocating for healthy weight, and turning larger people –women and girls — into living targets.

The weight loss industry – with ads aimed mostly at women — pulled in $60.5 billion (with a b) last year, according to MarketResearch.com. That’s a little less than the year before; researchers say the slump could be attributed to a dip in diet soda sales. But never fear. Market researchers say Americans aren’t abandoning their weight-loss efforts. They’re simply shifting to more do-it-yourself dieting that doesn’t include buying a product that can easily be tracked.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commissioner launched “Operation Failed Resolution,” an initiative aimed at companies that make false weight-loss claims.

But the hall of mirrors lives! A story about the initiative at WomensHealthMag.com included a pop-up ad promising a bikini body in 21 days.



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