We all know that obesity and being overweight are serious epidemics in the United States; just walk through any crowded area, and it’s fairly obvious. Almost 70 % of adults are overweight or obese and around 35 % of all American adults are obese (technically defined as a body mass index of over 30). Why, then, do fewer Americans say they want to lose weight?
This seems to be the case – in a recent poll conducted by Gallup, an average of 53 % of Americans polled between 2010 and 2016 said they wanted to lose weight, compared to 59 % who had this question posed to them between 2000 and 2009. This is probably related to the fact that fewer Americans view themselves as overweight, another piece of data gathered by the Gallup poll.
The numbers just don’t add up, though, because rates of obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control (among others) have been steadily increasing. In 2015, only 49 percent of Americans said that they wanted to lose weight, making it the first time in 25 years that less than half of Americans felt they should lose weight.
Also, what people give as their ideal weight has been increasing over the years. For instance, in the 1990s the average ideal weight given was 153 pounds; this increased to 159 pounds in the 2000s, and then to 161 pounds in the years from 2010 – 2016. Because of the discrepancy between increasing rates of obesity and decreasing desire to lose weight, it seems it’s not as if fewer Americans are wanting to lose weight because they’re no longer overweight!
It looks like what is going on here is that Americans are becoming more complacent, more “used” to being overweight. For example, in 1990 nearly half of adults described themselves as being overweight, compared to more than half of adults (56 %) in recent years claiming that their weight is “just about right.” This decline in Americans wanting to lose weight is more due to those who are overweight not believing they are overweight, rather than them being a healthy weight and so not having to lose some pounds.
Despite increasing obesity rates, is up for interpretation. It’s probably fair to say that American people are just getting used to being larger, as the increase in reported ideal weight shows, and being overweight has become more acceptable. Many people probably have the attitude of, “Well, I’m just a little chubby. A lot of my friends are too, so it’s okay.” But in reality, they’re more than a “little chubby” but quite overweight for their age and height.
In a society that cares about maintaining a healthy weight, you would expect to see an increase of people who want to lose weight if the number of overweight people is also increasing (which it is). Instead, we see the number of people who want to lose weight decreasing as the number of overweight people increases. In the lowest reading since 2002, only 24 % of American adults claim they are “seriously trying to lose weight.” Attitudes towards being overweight should change, or we will continue to see rates of obesity and high BMIs increasingly