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We Can Always Start Dieting Next Month

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If there were a national database of people's New Year's resolutions, it's a safe bet that weight loss would be among the top categories. One might further deduce that January is a big month for dieting. It's not. In fact, surveys by The NPD Group find that in eight of the past 10 years, "January was either the lowest or next-to-lowest dieting month of the entire year." The spirit may be willing, but the flesh can't get its act together until the terror of bathing-suit season draws near. Whether as cause or effect of the nation's epidemic of obesity, "New Year's dieting has been on the wane during the past decade." People adjust their attitudes to fit their girth, and the research firm finds a significant decline in the number of Americans agreeing with the statement, "People who are not overweight look more attractive." In 1985, 56 percent of those polled said they held that opinion. The number fell to 40 percent in 1990, 28 percent in 1995 and 24 percent in 2000. Evidently the impulse to look askance at the failings of others has been trumped by the impulse to cut our own waistlines some slack. In what might seem like a counter-trend, the percentage of people who say they "would like to lose 20 pounds" has been climbing—from 52 percent in 1990 to 56 percent in 1995 to 62 percent in 2000. Of course, more and more people have 20 pounds to lose, so physical reality dictates an increase in intent to shed that many lbs. Meanwhile, the nation's love of food may be crowding out other desires. When a Fitness magazine poll asked women to pick among choices for their "ultimate fantasy," 64 percent said it's "being able to eat whatever you want and not gain any weight," while just 11 percent preferred "a night with George Clooney." But maybe if George brought along a couple pizzas… Michael Keller/The Stock Market