- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Chubby, portly, plump, stout — so what? People are losing concern over obesity, according to a pair of new polls released by both U.S. and British researchers.

Americans are more tolerant of heavier people, said Harry Balzer, president of New York-based NPD Group, a consumer-research company that has tracked the nation’s eating habits for 25 years.

Two decades ago, its survey of 1,900 adults found that 55 percent agreed that “a person who is not overweight is a lot more attractive.” In 2005, that number had dropped to just 24 percent — marking its most fat-tolerant level.

“Perhaps Americans have found that the easiest way to deal with their weight is to change their attitude, and buy bigger clothes,” Mr. Balzer said.

Indeed, the commercial realm has responded to such thinking. New lines of clothing and lingerie for the so-called “big, beautiful woman” are increasing, along with attendant advertising — such as the new “campaign for real beauty” for Dove soap emphasizing ladies who are, well, a little zaftig.

The manufacturer also has founded a book club and sponsored an online pledge for women anxious that the public stop automatically equating beauty with slimness. More than 17,000 already have signed the pledge.

“Full” is not a four-letter word, according to New York psychologist Bonnie Bernell, author of “Bountiful Women: Large Women’s Secrets for the Living the Life They Desire.”

“When plus-size women wear clothes that are just right for their bodies, they strut and walk with confidence,” she said.

Meanwhile, a survey of 4,000 Britons released yesterday by London-based Cancer Research UK found that many respondents were in a state of blissful ignorance about their weight: while over half were overweight or obese, only 26 percent said they felt inclined to go on a diet.

More than two-thirds said they were unaware of the importance of maintaining a normal body weight, and 65 percent did not consider regular exercise a part of a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s worrisome to think that people are in denial about their weight. These results show that far too many of those at greatest risk are choosing to ignore their weight,” said Dr. Lesley Walker, who directed the research.

The group recommends a simple preventative regimen, which includes taking at least 10,000 steps a day, monitoring portion sizes and watching sugar and fat content of foods.

Some cultures have not abandoned skinny values.

According to a survey released yesterday by Riza Psicosomatica, an Italian psychology journal, Italians say that “obesity is worse than adultery.”

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