The scale may have gone up in recent years, your old clothing is tighter, and you can't walk that three-mile loop in the park as fast as you once could. But your weight is just fine. In fact, you don't look any worse than anyone else you know, right?

That, experts say, is part of the huge weight-denial problem facing Americans these days. "We're looking at each other, and we don't look overweight because the norm is obese," says Laura Goolsby, program coordinator-dietetics and nutrition at Keiser University in Lakeland, Florida. "As a society, we are in denial."

Don't believe it? Check out clothing sizes. What was a size 12 dress years ago is now a 10 today—maybe even an 8. This so-called vanity sizing is particularly apparent with higher-end brands. "The more you spend on your clothes, the smaller your size can appear to be," Goolsby says. And while stick-thin models probably will never go out of style, many more "normal-sized" models have appeared in fashion magazines and commercials with the aim of making the average woman feel better about herself.

While nobody wants women to get down on themselves for not having skinny thighs, it's important to remember that weight is not just about vanity but about health. "Obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes and heart disease," Goolsby says, citing a range of disabilities and health problems that go along with these diseases such as loss of sight, loss of limbs, dialysis, and heart attacks. Obesity, she maintains, leaves far too many people disabled and with a diminished ability to enjoy their lives.

What can you do if you've had blinders on when it comes to your weight? Get real about your portions, first and foremost. Experts say that because huge portions in restaurants have become the norm, most of us don't even notice when we're eating too much. Goolsby recommends that people measure their portions, either in a general way using the United States Department of Agriculture's guide, or more precisely using measuring cups and a food scale. She also likes the idea of buying smaller plates that correspond with the goal of eating less food, and keeping photos of yourself—both older and more current—handy for a reality check.

Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE reviewed this article.




Laura Goolsby, MS, RD, LD/N, Keiser University, c/o Kimberly Dale, media and public relations, 954-776-4476.