What are Americans doing about being overweight

April 07, 1999

A recent study by the Calorie Control Council reports that one in two women and one in three men consider themselves overweight. While these figures are higher than government health statistics that indicate one-fourth of adults are overweight, they underscored the emphasis on thinness in today's society and the fact that many people feel uncomfortable with their bodies.

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What are Americans doing about being overweight? The council, which surveys eating habits each year, reports we are substituting low-calorie, reduced-fat foods for high-calorie, high-fat foods and that we are accepting them as regular, rather than diet, foods. Among those who saw themselves as overweight, only 47 percent said they were on a diet. In comparison, 92 percent said they are using low-fat foods and beverages and 85 percent were using low-calorie foods and beverages.

Ninety percent of respondents who consider themselves overweight cited exercise as one approach they use to control their weight.


Quick weight loss regimes seem to be less popular than ever. Among those who considered themselves overweight, only 17 percent used diet meal substitutes. Also, fewer people skipped meals to diet. Physician-supervised liquid diets and diet pills are even less popular. Only 4 percent of dieters used liquid diets and 3 percent used diet pills.

Two approaches often recommended by nutritionists also are less popular among dieters. Only 39 percent of dieters counted calories and 14 percent attended weight-loss classes.

It appears that dieters are turning to more sensible approaches to weight control. Most are making long-term changes to their eating habits rather than short-term approaches, such as trying to avoid favorite foods or going on a diet.

Those who went on a diet were not particularly successful. Most said they had made three weight-loss attempts during the year with no net loss in weight. These on-again, off-again (yo-yo) approaches to weight control are, by their nature, doomed to fail and may be harmful to your health.

In the final analysis, experts agree that successful weight control can be achieved only by a lifetime commitment and permanent changes in eating attitude and behavior. Look good and feel healthy by following this advice:

* Include a variety of foods from the Food Guide Pyramid that you enjoy.

* Lose no more than one or two pounds each week; and

* Incorporate regular physical activity into your schedule to maintain a reasonable weight.

Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County - University of Maryland.

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