Flabby and fancy-free: Many Amer­i­cans obese but obliv­i­ous, sur­vey finds

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

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.

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