NIH Study Explores The Reason Why Three-Fourths Of Lesbians Are Overweight or Obese

RainbowFlag220px-NIH_Master_Logo_Vertical_2ColorAs an academic, I am often cautious about stories criticizing scientific studies due to some esoteric or humorous subject matter. However, I must confess that I am perplexed by the scientific basis or value of a U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) study to understand why lesbians are supposedly fat. The government has spent over $3.5 million thus far on the study, “Sexual Orientation and Obesity: A Test of a Gendered Biopsychosocial Model.” [Some reports however put the original grant at $1.5 million] The study seeks to determine why there is a disparity in the obesity rates between straight women and lesbian women and straight men and gay men.

This is a quote from the study:

“It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic, with nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese, compared to half of heterosexual women. In stark contrast, among men, heterosexual males have nearly double the risk of obesity compared to gay males.”

The study is based on the belief that the weight difference of lesbians produces “disparities . . . of high public-health significance.”

The grant was awarded to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to study the relationship between sexual orientation and obesity. The project is overseen by S. Bryn Austin.

I do not see how it is “well-established” that three-fourths of lesbians are overweight or obese. Where does that figure come from? I was surprised to read that such a figure exists, let alone that it is sufficiently reliable to justify a scientific study. While I am not questioning the authority researchers and their work, I am simply surprised as an academic because I would have viewed that figure as anecdotal at best.

The description linked below states that “there is almost no prospective, analytic epidemiologic research into the causes of these disparities.” However, that may be due to the fact that the causes are diffuse and a mix of social, personal, and economic conditions — assuming that the statistic is valid.

Here is the NIH study description.

32 thoughts on “NIH Study Explores The Reason Why Three-Fourths Of Lesbians Are Overweight or Obese”

  1. @NickS

    You are right about gay men. Ava Gardner said of Frank Sinatra when he dumped her for Mia Farrow, “Well, he always wanted a boy.” Or something like that.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. RSA – Robin Williams is dead and buried with his wife and children fighting over the estate, as well they should.

  2. “Disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic” sounds like they are beset by an unfairly discriminatory plague rather than actively choosing to eat more food than they burn.

    Now I’m not a statistician or a sociologist or anything sciencey like that but I think this “study” might be gamed to provide evidence for foregone conclusions.

  3. [music]
    They’re Fat oh they’re Fat!
    They are Fat all the way!
    From their first cigarette to their last dying day.

  4. One of the great myths is that men want thin women. GAY MEN want women thin. Most hetero men like women w/ curves and some meat on them. The Sophia Loren look is the archetypal hetero male hottie. The gay male culture is obsessed w/ thin, many using crystal meth to achieve the image.

  5. Just to play devil’s advocate, I ride horses. For some reason, there are a lot of lesbians in various equestrian sports, but I’ve never seen an overweight one. I had a dressage instructor who was lesbian. Maybe society as a whole would have a more relaxed attitude towards gays/lesbians if everyone got into equestrian sports as a kid.

  6. That’s simple. Women diet to please men, who don’t dare admit that the reason they demand women to be thin is because other women demand the be thin – rather like spreading the misery. That’s why we women, who are miserable, in between relationships, or have decided we no longer give a damn what men think have a tendency to gain weight.

    I’ve observed, living in an area which is considered one of the lesbian capitals of the country, that women who are lesbian have a tendency to be happier about themselves than those of us who aren’t. I’m not happy with myself. As any heterosexual woman and you’ll get the same answer.

    Look at Karen’s comment. Men want a young slim woman, primarily, I think, to show off what a powerful, chest-beating, Tarzan yodeling, Alpha male they want other men to believe. Having once been engaged to a washed up Hollywood B-list type, it was all about how men saw him. He needed a cute, thin, skank to prove how ‘good’ he was to other men. Once someone told him he was surprised that he’d be with someone like moi, who was not thin, he dumped me so fast, it made my head spin.

    P. S. it left me with a very bitter taste about men in general.

    1. “Men want a young slim woman, primarily, I think, to show off what a powerful, chest-beating, Tarzan yodeling, Alpha male they want other men to believe.”

      That gets it all wrong.

      Guys can’t help it. We’re programed by a hundred thousand years of evolution to seek out prime breeding material. We’re supposed to be this way.

      Give evolution another hundred thousand years of post-industrial society and we will all be looking for women with the biggest foreheads, or something.

  7. Well, it seems intuitively obvious: the selection pressure is from males choosing slim, beautiful mates. That’s why it’s far more common for men to date/marry much younger women. It is indeed well established that physical characteristics weigh heavier among males compared with females than other factors. Women are statistically more likely to also favor personality, stability, provider status, etc. It’s not that those things don’t matter to men, but statistically, physicality is weighted more. If the selection pressure is coming exclusively from females, then there won’t theoretically be such focus on superficial characteristics.

    So a man will selectively choose a slim, young mate whether that man is heterosexual or homosexual.

    Marriage also skews the average. Before gay marriage, gay and lesbians were confined to dating relationships, whether short or long term. Heterosexual and homosexual people dating tend to work harder on their appearance compared to those who are married and more secure in their partner’s affections.

    Think about it. When a dating relationship ends, people hit the gym and re-evaluate their nutrition to improve their chances in finding a new mate.

    With all the problems facing our country, this seems like a lot of money to spend that could be better spent simply spreading the word about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

  8. Oh my, what a study! I wonder if I can do an Irish Poem that will get past the spam filter???

    Cunning Linguistics???
    An Irish Poem by Squeeky Fromm

    Oh, why are the Lesbians fat?
    I guess the researchers asked that!
    But is it indiscreet,
    To say, “Something they eat,”
    While their partners respond tit-for-tat?

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

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