Fewer overweight adults are trying to lose weight

March 13, 2017 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Fewer overweight adults are trying to lose weight

A growing number of overweight and obese Americans are not trying to lose excess pounds, and researchers think it's at least in part because more people see being fat as socially acceptable, if not healthy.

Over roughly the past three decades, the proportion of adults who are overweight and obese has surged from 53 percent to 66 percent. Over that same period, the proportion of heavy adults trying to lose weight dropped from 56 percent to 49 percent. 

Losing weight is hard, and keeping it off is even harder. This may explain at least some of the waning national interest in weight loss, said the lead researcher at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. 

A lot of heavier adults are probably also seeing so many other overweight and obese people that they feel comfortable at their current size and don't feel social pressure to slim down. 

This might be explained, at least partially, by increasing evidence that adults who are overweight may live as long as and sometimes even longer than normal weight adults, the researchers noted.

The decline in weight-loss efforts occurred mostly among adults who were overweight but not yet obese.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative health survey for three time periods: 1988 to 1994, 1999 to 2004 and 2009 to 2014. 

Among other things, the survey asked overweight and obese adults if they had tried to lose weight during the past 12 months. 

Limitations of the study include its reliance on survey participants to accurately recall and report their weight and height to allow researchers to calculate whether they might be overweight or obese.

Weigh yourself regularly to prevent weight gain

Experts say for people to succeed at weight loss, we may need to rethink what weight management means. Things like logging food in a diary, using willpower to resist overeating and getting 10,000 steps a day haven't worked. 

They don’t address the basic neurobiology of how our brains think about food.

The bathroom scale is a simple tool that can help people who are overweight but not yet obese. Stepping on the scale regularly is important because it allows to catch small increases in weight which aren’t hard to lose if you eat carefully for a few weeks.

Nipping small gains in the bud is key to preventing a large weight gain

Source: JAMA, online March 7, 2017.

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