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Gallup Poll: Americans’ Desire to Shed Pounds Outweighs Effort

Only 18% are at ideal weight (November 29)

According to a new Gallup survey, Americans’ desire to lose weight does not necessarily translate into their doing anything to achieve it. While 51% of adults want to lose weight, barely half as many (25%) say they are seriously working toward that goal. This discrepancy between Americans’ weight-loss desires and behavior has existed for years, Gallup says.

The current 26% gap between those who want to lose weight and those who are actively trying to do so is slightly narrower than the gap found in most years since 2002, the survey finds. The percentage of respondents saying they would like to lose weight has dropped eight points since 2011. At the same time, the percentage trying to lose weight has dropped four points.

Gallup has asked Americans to report their attitudes toward their weight yearly since 2002 and occasionally before then.

Americans’ desire to lose weight has not kept up with the rise in adults’ self-reported weight over the past 23 years. Americans report weighing an average of 15 pounds more now than in 1990, but the percentage who want to lose weight is the same now as it was then.

Women (57%) are more likely than men (46%) to say they want to lose weight, consistent with what Gallup has found historically. But the gender gap is smaller in the percentages of respondents who are making an effort: 27% of women versus 22% of men.

More Americans want to lose weight than actually see themselves as overweight. Overall, 36% describe themselves as overweight, on par with 34% in 2012, but down slightly from most years since 2002 and from 1990. This includes 34% of men and 39% of women who say they are overweight.

The poll also asked Americans to state their ideal weight. Nearly six in 10 Americans are heavier than their ideal weight by at least 1 pound, while fewer than two in 10 are at their ideal weight. This suggests that adults are much more likely to know they are heavier than their ideal weight than to classify themselves as overweight.

Results for the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 7–10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,039 adults (18 years of age and older) living in all 50 U.S. states and in the District of Columbia.

Source: Gallup; November 29, 2013.

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