Putting Americans on the Scale

A glance at the front shelves of a bookstore will confirm that Americans are obsessed with losing weight. But obsession doesn’t necessarily yield action, as you can gather from the results of a Gallup poll.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they’re over their ideal weight. Nearly as many, 55 percent, said they’d like to lose weight. But just 27 percent said they are “seriously trying” to trim down. Such a disparity has been a fixture of Gallup polling on this subject throughout the decade.

In its own analysis of the polling (fielded last month), Gallup attributes some of this gap to the fact that about four in 10 of the respondents who exceed their ideal weight are over by 10 pounds or less. As such, “these people may not see shedding the few extra pounds as worth the effort.” However, the same lack of effort is common among people who are quite heavy. Just 49 percent of those who are 20 or more pounds above their ideal weight said they’re seriously trying to slim down.

On average, the survey’s respondents are 14 pounds over what they consider to be their ideal weight — the men by 12 pounds and the women by 16 pounds. Male respondents tipped the scale at 194 pounds, on average; female respondents weighed an average of 154 pounds.

Looking at the data another way, 6 percent of the men and the same proportion of the women exceed their ideal weight by more than 50 pounds. Fifteen percent of the men and 19 percent of the women are 21 to 50 pounds over that figure.

Amid all this surplus poundage, people who wish to gain weight must feel like oddities. And, of course, there aren’t very many of them: Just 7 percent of Gallup’s respondents would like to put on some pounds.