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Six in 10 Americans Have Attempted to Lose Weight

by Joseph Carroll, Gallup Poll Assistant Editor

Women more likely than men to diet

Some people increase their cardio regimen, while others hire personal trainers and nutritionists and still others merely reduce the number of carbs, fat, or calories in their diet. No matter what people are doing, many are trying to lose weight. A recent Gallup Poll finds that attempts to lose weight are common among the U.S. population, and a substantial proportion of Americans have attempted to lose weight several times in their lives.

Gallup's annual survey on Consumption Habits*, conducted July 7-10, finds that Americans report that they have tried to lose weight an average of seven times in their lives. This includes 24% of Americans who have tried to lose weight once or twice, 28% who have tried between 3 and 10 times, and 11% who have tried more than 10 times. A third of Americans, 34%, say they have never tried to lose weight.

The current poll shows a significant increase in reported weight loss attempts over the past 15 years. In 1990, a Gallup Poll found that Americans tried to lose weight four times in their lives, on average. In 1999, the average was five times. These two surveys found a higher percentage of Americans reporting that they have never tried to lose weight, and fewer reporting that they have dieted three or more times.

Who's Trying to Lose Weight?

Certain groups of Americans are more likely to attempt weight loss than others: overweight Americans rather than average or underweight Americans, women rather than men, those who do not eat a very healthy diet rather than those who do, and those who do not describe their health as excellent rather than those who do.

Weight Description

Americans who describe their current weight situation as overweight are much more likely than those who are about right or underweight to say they have tried to lose weight. Overweight Americans report that they have attempted diets an average of 13 times, compared with 3 times among those who are about right or underweight.

Nearly half of those who are about right or underweight say they have never attempted to lose weight, while only 14% of overweight respondents have never tried. Six in 10 overweight Americans have tried to lose weight three or more times.

Gender and Age

Women are much more likely than men to say they have tried to lose weight before. On average, men report that they have tried to lose weight five times in their lives, while women say they have made an average of 10 attempts.

Slightly less than half of men (45%) say they have never attempted to lose weight, compared with only 23% of women. Among women, 25% have tried to lose weight once or twice, while 46% have tried three or more times. Among men, 23% have tried once or twice to lose weight, while only 31% have made three or more attempts.

There are also some slight variations by age, with the youngest adults (aged 18 to 29) and seniors (aged 65 and older) reporting fewer attempts at weight loss than those in the 30 to 64 age range. Adults aged 18 to 29 and adults aged 65 and older have tried to lose weight an average of 4 times each, while 30- to 49-year-olds have attempted weight loss an average of 8 times and 50- to 64-year-olds an average of 10 times.

Last week, in an analysis about weight concerns, Gallup reported that younger women were much more likely than older women or men of any age to worry about their weight all or some of the time. Despite the difference in expressed worry, younger and older women have made about the same number of attempts at weight loss, on average. On average, younger women (aged 18 to 49) have tried to lose weight 9 times, while older women (aged 50 and older) have tried 11 times. Younger and older men both report an average of five weight loss attempts.

Diet

On average, Americans who describe their diet as "very healthy" say they have attempted to lose weight five times in their lives. This is slightly lower than those who describe their diet as somewhat healthy or not healthy, with an average of eight weight loss attempts and nine attempts, respectively.

Personal Health Description

Those who describe their health as "excellent" say they have tried to lose weight about four times, on average. This compares with eight times among those who describe their personal health as "good" and 13 times among those describing it as "only fair" or "poor."

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup


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