Flabby and fancy-free: Many Americans obese but oblivious, survey finds
Just as the holiday party season dawns, along comes Gallup with the real skinny: Americans are in fat denial.
A whopping six out of 10 Americans are overweight, but only 28 percent “seriously” are attempting to lose weight, while more than one-third try to exercise, according to a poll of U.S. health habits.
“Part of the gap between problem and action is simply due to the failure of many overweight Americans to acknowledge they weigh more than they should,” said Lydia Saad, a Gallup analyst.
The survey had weighty findings: The average man weighs 194 pounds, the average woman 155 — up from 180 and 142 pounds in a 1990 survey. Americans cling to the weight of their dreams, however. Men said their ideal weight was 180 pounds; for women, 138 pounds. But even the dreams are gaining on them.
Sixteen years ago, men reported their ideal weight was 171 pounds; women, 129 pounds.
The ladies have it over the gents, however, at least in terms of trying to slim down. The survey found 32 percent of women and 24 percent of men are “seriously” attempting to diet.
And about that exercise: The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of daily aerobic activity. Gallup found that two-thirds of the respondents could not meet that advice. Twelve percent said they got 20 minutes of exercise five days a week.
Americans are more comfortable with something called “moderate exercise” — walking and gardening, for example. Eighty-four percent said they occasionally managed a stroll or a little raking and weeding three times a week on average.
The survey of 1,004 adults was conducted Nov. 9-12, and had a margin of error of three per- centage points.
Meanwhile, Cornell University nutritionist Brian Wansink blames the nation’s tubby state on “mindless eating,” which surroundings and friends heavily influence. Americans make 250 decisions a day about food, he says.
“We typically don’t overeat because we are hungry or because the food tastes good. Instead, we overeat because of the cues around us — family and friends, packages and plates, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers,” Mr. Wansink said.
He proved his point hosting a recent ice cream social for 63 nutritional science professors, who were given either medium or jumbo serving bowls.
“Even though these people eat, sleep, lecture and study nutrition, they still served themselves and ate 31 percent more ice cream — about 106 more calories — if they had been given a bigger bowl,” Mr. Wansink said.
But a slimming remedy is simple. It’s the “small stylized changes that fit with your life” that work, such as using smaller dishes at that calorific holiday fete, he said.
“We need to set up our daily environment and routine so we can eat the right amounts of food we enjoy,” Mr. Wansink said.