- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 21, 2002

Chubby, tubby, portly, stout: Americans may be more at home with a little extra padding these days.
A new Gallup survey released Friday finds that folks who are a bit rotund don't see themselves as such.
"Four in 10 Americans say they are overweight," the survey notes delicately. "But self-perceptions are more optimistic than national statistics."
Indeed, the poll found that 40 percent acknowledged they were, well, Rubenesque. But that doesn't match the findings from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which found that 55 percent of Americans are clinically overweight.
These results suggest that those who could lose a few pounds "do not perceive themselves as overweight," the Gallup survey noted. And what's a few pounds? The survey also found that 77 percent described their health as either "excellent" or "good."
The old plump factor is not so feared anymore.
Though 45 percent of those polled said they'd gained weight in the past five years and only 21 percent said they'd lost weight, more than half were comfortable with their weight as 55 percent said they were "about right." The figure stood at 46 percent back in 1990.
One group, however, is still dogged with persistent weight problems. Half of all ex-smokers said they were overweight, compared with 36 percent of smokers and 37 percent of nonsmokers.
And where there are weighty matters, there are other polls and other conclusions.
The Harris poll, for example, determined in March that 80 percent of us are overweight, blaming larger portions, convenience foods and lackadaisical exercise habits. But hope springs eternal: The poll also found that 60 percent wanted to lose those pounds.
But we are filled with diet dread, apparently.
In an on-line survey of almost 20,000 people, Fitness.com went to the roots of the weight-loss problem. Their poll found that the worst aspect of dieting was cutting down on calories, cited by more than a third.
Over a quarter waged battle with themselves, saying that "thinking about it too much" was the worst aspect. Not having the energy or time to diet and "having to exercise" tied in third place in this triumvirate of disagreeable eating challenges.
All of this dietary angst has given rise to great prose, however. Among the 1,200 odd diet books on the market this year, the notion of "fat" has been given imaginative new character.
Among other things, there are fat flushers, fat burners and fat vanquishers. There's virtuous "good fat" and evil "bad fat." There's the dreaded "midlife fat cell," not to mention the "female fat cell," "false fat" and something called "T-factor fat."
And while manly men debate the merits of proteins vs. carbs and whether they are situated in the proper diet zone, women now have a program that is theirs alone: The "Goddess Diet," which has Cher's stamp of approval, hones in on the weight-loss challenges of the fairer sex.
"Tired of following the dietary advice for men and watching your shape change into a Buddha Belly?" asks author and physician Larrian Gillespie.
Stress and lack of sleep "can make you fat and infertile," Dr. Gillespie notes, later adding, "Eating like a man can make you depressed."
Lest the menfolk get insulted, she has also written a book titled, "The Gladiator Diet."
Meanwhile, the Washington state-based weight-loss group Blubberbusters summarized the dietary challenge in a recent poll, which did not blame the Zone, the carbs, the fats or the pastries.
Their poll found that 15 percent said they ate when "upset or depressed" and 40 percent "when bored or nervous." But it may be just a matter of taste. More than 45 percent said they ate simply "for pleasure."


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