The number of Americans who say they want to lose weight has actually declined. In 2007, about 60% reported wanting to lose; in 2015, it dropped to 49%. On the other hand, obesity is rising. Between 1999 and 2000 30.5% of Americans were obese. In 2013-2014 it had risen to 37.7%. The CDC estimates that almost two-thirds of Americans are either obese or overweight. So, why are fewer people trying to lose? Here are 3 facts about weight loss in America.
1. Is there a New Normal? The numbers tell part of the story. It is estimated that the average American carries about 23 extra pounds. It’s a new normal. A tall person might feel short if he was surrounded by basketball pros. A person who is just overweight may feel much better if surrounded by other overweight adults. If everyone else is 20 pounds overweight and he or she is only carrying 15 extra pounds, they might even feel proud of their size. America has welcomed a more realistic body type in ads and, even, in movie stars, but is that a sign that our culture is changing? Are we becoming complacent about being overweight? It’s a good thing to allow women of all sizes to feel pretty, but is it helping people to ignore the health risks of being overweight?
2. If being Overweight Contagious? The answer appears to be yes. As social animals, we are influenced by the people around us – especially the people we like or love. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that the odds of becoming obese rises by 57% if a friend becomes obese. If a sibling become obese, the odds rise by 40%. We even see this reflected in state-by-state studies. In states like Colorado where many residents are active – skiing, hiking and enjoying their beautiful state – the percentage of obese is the lowest (20.2%). On the other hand, the culture of Southern cooking has Louisiana (36.2%) and Alabama (35.6%) leading in obese citizens. Possibly, people look around and adopt the weight culture of their state.
3. Are Portions Getting Bigger? Another, yes. In the 20 years between 1977 and 1996, the size of a hamburger grew by 23% and a plate of Mexican food grew by 27%. Not only did serving size grow; so did our dishes. Buyers at antique stores have been known to mistake an antique dinner plate for a side plate. That size influences our perception of what we eat. A study showed that when given cereal in a large bowl, participants ate 16% more, but their estimate of what they ate was 7% lower than those who ate from a small bowl. That larger plate or bowl tricks us two ways – we eat more but think we eat less because the bowl or plate doesn’t look as full.
Most Americans understand the health risks of being overweight, but they may not be facing the consequences of their own weight. If you are overweight and know it, take action. Consider your options. For example, you can receive a personalized diet under the care of a doctor who is a weight loss specialist at a medical weight loss center. Society may be more accepting of those who are overweight or even obese – but the health risks remain as high as ever. Don’t let yourself be one of the crowd – be the leader who takes action. When a person loses weight, they inspire others to do the same. You can do it and you can make a difference.