PRINCETON, NJ -- Just in time for the holiday feasting, a new Gallup Poll finds that nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) would like to lose weight. While this figure is unchanged from 2001, Americans report weighing an average of six pounds more today than they did seven years ago: 177 vs. 171 pounds.
On average, women now report weighing 160 pounds, up from 153 in 2001 -- a gain of nearly a pound per year. Men currently report weighing 194 pounds, up from 189.
Aside from some minor fluctuations from 2002 through today in men's average reported weight, most of the increase among men was observed earlier this decade. In contrast, most of the gain in women's average reported weight was seen in the past two years.
A Middle-Aged Dieting Bulge
According to the Nov. 13-16, 2008, Gallup Health and Healthcare Poll, 59% of Americans would like to lose weight, 34% want to remain at their present weight, and 7% (mostly younger men) want to gain weight.
However, the desire to lose weight is notably more prevalent among middle-aged Americans. Nearly two-thirds of those aged 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 say they would like to lose weight, compared with 55% of those 65 and older and only 41% of adults younger than 30.
Indeed, middle-aged adults are about twice as likely as those 18 to 29 -- and significantly more likely than those 65 and older -- to say they are currently making a serious effort to lose weight.
Three in 10 Are Trying to Reduce
Overall, 30% of Americans say they are seriously trying to lose weight, up slightly -- although not significantly -- from the 28% recorded each of the past two years. This includes 38% of women who are seriously trying to lose weight, up from 32% in 2007 and the highest level seen for women since the start of the decade. The 22% of men seriously trying to lose weight today is not much different from the levels men have reported in recent years, although it is slightly higher than in 2001 and 2002.
Notably, the percentage saying they are seriously trying to lose weight (30%) is only about half the percentage saying they would like to lose weight (59%).
Women Raise Their Ideal Weight Target
Women, in particular, may be helping themselves reach their weight goals by adjusting their target weight up a bit. Whereas from 2001 to 2007, the average answer women gave to a question asking for their "ideal body weight" ranged from 134 to 138 pounds, today that figure is 140. Thus, on average, women currently weigh about 20 pounds more than their ideal.
By contrast, the average 180-pound ideal weight now reported by men is consistent with the 177- to 181-pound range seen over the past eight years. Going by men's self-reported average weight of 194 pounds, men weigh about 14 pounds more, on average, than their ideal.
U.S. adults are heavy, and apparently getting heavier. Six in 10 Americans want to lose weight, and the average self-reported weight of U.S. adults has risen six pounds since 2001.
While no doubt distressing for overweight Americans, this can only be good news for the multibillion-dollar weight-loss industry as it seeks to meet the demands of those actively looking for diet aids. At least 30% of Americans, including a record-high 38% of women, tell Gallup they are currently trying to lose weight.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,009 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 13-16, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.