LiveWell targets weight misconceptions



“Obesity is not as extreme as you think,” reads LiveWell’s obesity quiz, which provides pictures of real people to see how well one can identify the weight categories. It gives the example of a 5-foot-5 woman weighing 149 pounds, which is on the high end of healthy. To enter an obese category she would only need to gain about 30 pounds, the quiz says.

To get your statistics or find out more information, visit

Many people know their height down to the quarter inch. But when it comes to weight, self and societal perception may mean misclassifications of true health risks.

A statewide study showed that Coloradans see obesity as someone else’s problem and are not recognizing if their numbers fall into a healthy weight, overweight or obese category.

“They tended to think of obesity in terms of The Biggest Loser,” said John Hopkins, Grand Junction resident and chairman of the Board of LiveWell Colorado, the organization that conducted the research.

While it may not be surprising that these morbidly obese images have become associated, clinical definitions of overweight and obese categories start much lower. So, to address its findings, LiveWell designed a “Culture Change” campaign targeting misconceptions — and it is now seeing awareness become action.

When the ad runs on television, traffic to the website where people can get their statistics increases, Hopkins said. Also, a number of those affected by the realization have shared their stories of change, he said.

Colorado still holds the reputation for the lowest percentage of obesity nationally with 20.1 percent compared to 35.7. However, it is the dramatically increasing trend upward that has health professionals concerned, according to Mesa County Health Department Executive Director Jeff Kuhr.

Locally, the numbers are slightly higher than state average, sitting at 23 percent. Obesity is one of the major health issues and a summit about it will be held in October, Kuhr said.

“It’s such a big risk factor, we’ve got to take control of it,” he said.

Kuhr compared the epidemic to that of smoking, a habit that was known to be harmful for many years before a cultural shift took place, he said.

“This is such a cultural item or societal item that it has to be addressed,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of changes on a lot of fronts. … Obesity is a huge, huge issue and I think we are best going to address it by coming together.”

According to research conducted by the RAND Corp. that compared the effects of obesity, smoking, heavy drinking and poverty on chronic health conditions and expenditures, obesity is the most serious problem.

Also, it is one that affects everyone. Obesity-related medical expenditures cost Colorado $874 million annually, according to a 2004 study published in Obesity Research and highlighted on the LiveWell website.

“It’s not sustainable for us,” said Hopkins, who retired three years ago as the chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Health Plans. “It’s something we really need to get a handle on.”


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