Challenge Answers, Winners, & What It All Means

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, I challenged you to identify whether 5 very common statements about obesity and health were true or false. 1,352 of you participated, but the number of people who were correct about all 5 statements was...well, a lot less than that.

I’m not sure of the total number of correct responses (it would have taken me all day to go through and find all of them), but I had to go all the way up to comment #265 to find the 25th winner of a 100 point SparkGoodie, and by the time I got to comment #500, the total of correct answers was less than 50. In other words, less than 10% of the responses were correct about all 5 statements.

So, if you didn’t get all 5 right, you weren’t alone (in fact, by far the most common answer—that all 5 statements were true—was wrong about all 5 statements). But don’t feel too bad–the questions were deliberately worded in a way that made it easy to make a mistake. In fact, that was really one of the major points of this challenge—to demonstrate that it’s very easy for anyone to take a “fact” and present it in a way that leads to a certain conclusion, when the fact itself doesn’t lead there at all. And it isn’t always easy to spot when this is going on.

Each of the 5 statements in this challenge presents a good example of how facts get turned into widely held impressions and assumptions that aren’t really accurate, and could potentially cause problems for people. So, let’s take a look at the statements and the correct answers, and then we can talk a little about what this all means in the real world.

Statement No. 1

Obesity causes health risks, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

FALSE. Obesity is associated with these medical conditions, but the evidence doesn’t support the idea that it causes them. Most researchers suggest that other factors (especially genetics and physical inactivity) most likely cause both the obesity and the other medical conditions.

Statement No. 2

People with a BMI in the “normal” range have a lower risk of mortality than those in higher (or lower) BMI ranges.

FALSE. The weight at which the lowest mortality rates occur is either very close to or within the “overweight” category, depending on your age, gender and race. For example, for Caucasians under 55, the lowest death rate is at a BMI of 24.5, and for African Americans it is at 27. For women over 55, these numbers are 26.5 and 29.8 for these two racial groups. (Overweight = BMI of 25 to 29.9).

Statement No.3

Losing weight will definitely reduce your risks of health problems and premature death.

FALSE. 15 of the largest and most comprehensive long-term studies indicate that dieting, especially repetitive dieting or “weight cycling,” is actually associated with increased health risks. Researchers suggest this is because loss of too much muscle, bone, and organ tissue may jeopardize health.

Statement No. 4

As long as it is not taken to extremes, dieting is a safe, proven, and effective weight loss method.

FALSE. There is no diet plan that is safe, proven, or effective for everyone, and there are no diets that have actually been proven to be safe or effective over the long-term. Most diets haven’t been studied long enough to provide evidence about their long-term effectiveness, and virtually all weight-loss treatments and approaches can only be considered experimental at this point, including medications and surgery as well as eating plans. There is even controversy over whether maintaining a calorie deficit will necessarily cause weight loss in all people, or what kind of weight will be lost (fat, muscle, etc). And finally, it’s clear that dieting frequently leads to unhealthy weight cycling and also to disordered eating for many people, and those things aren’t safe.

Statement No. 5

The two most effective motivations for losing weight are fear of the health risks caused by obesity, and the desire to conform to social standards regarding body size, shape, and appearance.

FALSE. It’s probably true that these are the two most common reasons why people set out to lose weight. But starting out and reaching your goal are two very different things, and the evidence indicates that, for individuals, “sticking with it” depends far more on intrinsic motivations than on these two extrinsic motivations. On a social level, it’s very clear that both increased social pressures to be thin and increased knowledge of the connection between obesity and health problems have gone hand in hand with rapidly rising rates of obesity. That makes it hard to see how these two things can be viewed as effective motivators for losing weight. The reality may well turn out to be that these external pressures are actually aggravating the situation for many people, leading to hazardous short-term weight cycling, poor nutrition, disordered eating, body hatred, increased size discrimination, confusion and despair regarding what actually “works,” and other factors that increase stress, aggravate health problems, and undermine the ability to stick with a weight loss plan.

What does it all mean?

Well, one thing it doesn’t mean is that you should stop trying to lose weight. But it probably does mean it’s going to be important for you to ditch the “diet mentality” and switch to a “live it” mentality.

Another thing it does mean is that you shouldn’t believe anyone who tells you they’ve discovered the “secret” to weight loss, or guarantees results if you just use their product or follow their plan. The bottom line is that you are an experiment of one, and you’ll need to find out what your body needs in the way of food and exercise to reach your healthiest weight and stay there. Doctors and experts can help you identify the particular risk factors and challenges you have to work with, provide general information, and help you monitor your progress as you go along. But they can’t give you an exact blueprint to follow, or provide the motivation you’ll need to do whatever you need to do.

The good news is that you don’t have to look like a cover model to be healthy and fit. Just as being overweight doesn’t cause illness, being a normal weight doesn’t cause good health. The things that contribute to both good health and weight loss are your own behaviors—healthy eating and plenty of physical activity—not finding just the right diet plan, or reaching some particular number on the scale.

Congratulations to The Challenge Winners!

Here are the first 25 respondents who correctly identified all 5 statements as false. You can expect to see your SparkGoodie award on your SparkPage in the next day or two. Don’t spend it all in one place!


So, how'd you do on the quiz, and what do you think of the answers?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Congrats to you guys, Wow I think I said true to all the questions!!! boy was I wrong. Report
Congrats!!! Report
Congrats to the brave ones!
I could tell that these were "trick-i-ly" worded and chose not to play-(do not like "mind games"). It was nice to read the interpretations today.
Wendy Report
Crap....was I ever way off on this one. Thanks Spark! Report
Congrats to all the winners! I didn't do as well as I thought, but I did learn from it! Report
Congratulations to everyone who got all of the answers right!!!!!! Report
I was surprised by some of the answers. For instance the BMI and obesity statements. I definitely thought that being overweight makes you a higher risk for getting diabetes. The quiz was very interesting. Report
I have found since my weight is so much noticable now that people keep saying how did you do it? How long did it take you? They are all looking for miracles and when I tell them I have done it by healthy living and about Sparkpeople, they look at me strangley and say oh no it must have been hard! I would want to lose it quickly! But, I'm pleased to say that Sparkpeople have altered the way I look at things, I'm saying this as the staements above told me such a lot about peoples expectations and how advertiser's use this to win them round. I'm so happy that I have learnt to take one day at a time and can do this in a gentle way for myself and my body, it doesn't matter how long it takes or about "dieting" what matters is what we do to ourselves, so healthy life style all the way...
Hugs ~ Lady Anne xx Report
I would be interested in reading some examples of "intrinsic motivation." Report
I GOT THEM ALL RIGHT !!!:) way to late to be the first 25 but proud that I have learned something. It is a good lesson in reading the wording CAREFULLY! on everything no matter the source. Report
I got them ALL right!! Too bad I wasn't in the first 25! Congrat to those who were!! Report
So close. Too bad I didn't remember that the lowest mortality is associated with healthy to slightly overweight BMI.

Congrats to the winners!

cj Report
I knew the first four were false and I was actually really glad to see that #5 was false as well, I was afraid that one was actually true--and what a sad commentary that would be on our society. Report
Tricky - A lot of these (misconceptions) are fed to us by the TV media, wouldn't you say so? Report
Congrats to the winners!

I am pretty sure I got them all wrong. Or at least most of them. Sheesh! I guess I have a lot to learn, huh? Report
I think I got 1 wrong. The rest I remember. The first question I got wrong. That I remember. Report
Congrats to the winners! :) Report
This was very informative and certainly a great learning opportunity. Report
ARCHIMEDESII, sure obesity increases the chance of health risks, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, but it does not CAUSE it! key word cause... Report
MooHoo to all the winner's! Report
Actually, I'd like to take issue that number one is FALSE.

While I don't have any specific links to site, I do believe that there has been evidence that shows that being overweight does increase a person's chance of having heart problems or even type II diabetes.

Isn't that what the Framingham Heart study showed i.e. the an overweight person was at greater risk for heart disease than something at a normal weight ?

I don't know. I think the test was sneaky. ;)

Drat ... so close, but let my guard down on the first one, not paying close attention to the word "CAUSES" ... correctly got the other 4 as False. So what does 80% get me, a B??? LOL Report
I agree with randyz*resolve...especially with question 5..."starting and reaching a your goal are not the same thing" seriously??? that is ur reasoning for answering the question false? I mean if your going to ask a question be specific...this is not about winning or losing...100 sparkpoints won't pay my gym fees, I just find it irritating that your rationale for answering some of the questions were rather abstract. Report
"The good news is that you don’t have to look like a cover model to be healthy and fit. Just as being overweight doesn’t cause illness, being a normal weight doesn’t cause good health." Great point! Through my work at SparkPeople, I hope that I'm showing others that you don't have to have perfectly air-burshed abs to love yourself and be fit and healthy! Report
Got them all right also, but way too slow in commenting somewhere in the thousands!! Report
Dang, got them all right, but a little slow. Post #392 Report
I think more than anything this quiz emphasizes how important it is to pay careful attention to the wording of health and fitness articles and research results. Something like the difference between obesity being "associated with" vs. "causing" various health problems is subtle as far as the wording goes, but the meaning of those two statements is very different.

It's easy to obscure meaning with subtle changes is wording, and its so important to remember when you hear about a "new breakthrough" that will help you loose weight. Tried-and-true diet and exercise are what really work! Report
I thought they were all false! Dang it, should have left a comment! I've been trying to catch up on older blogs and collecting points for them, so I haven't been commenting on the newer ones. Silly me. =) Report
I got about half right! I struggled with the wording of the statements. Report
I have a weird feeling now, after taking the quiz.

I'm not sure I agree with the answers given -- again -- it depends on the research looked at. I very rarely feel critical of anything I've read here -- but I feel the quiz was definitely "misleading" and I'm not sure the answers aren't misleading as well.

I apologize for being negative today -- but it's how I feel. Report
I didn't take the quiz but I thought it was insightful. I really like the answers, straight and to the point, no beating around the bush! Thanks Spark! Report
I think I did fair but not perfect. Report
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