Mark Dolliver: Ranks of Obesity Thin Out

Last month brought a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the rate of obesity among adults seems to have leveled off, after climbing for decades. While it’s lovely that the obesity epidemic isn’t worsening, the nation’s weight problem is bad enough as is.

In a new Gallup poll, 30 percent of women and 18 percent of men confessed to being more than 20 pounds heavier than what they consider their ideal weight. This includes the 12 percent of women and 5 percent of men who said they’re more than 50 pounds over their ideal weight. (The chart gives more detail.) The average actual weight is 17.3 pounds above the ideal—13.7 pounds for men, 20.7 pounds for women.

Lest you think Americans have an unduly spartan notion of their ideal weight, Gallup notes that the average ideal has crept upward over the years. In 1990, women’s answers to the ideal-weight query averaged out to 129 pounds, vs. 138 pounds in the new poll. For men, the ideal poundage has risen from 171 to 178.

The average self-reported weight for women stands at 159, the highest it has been since Gallup started conducting these polls. For men, it stands at 191—actually down a few pounds from its 2003 high of 195. Keep in mind, though, that the pollster wasn’t putting respondents on a scale but instead relying on their claims.