The tug of war between desire and action is one of the enduring dramas of the human condition. At least since the swimsuit-crazed 1950s, it has manifested itself in the matter of weight gain and loss.
Gallup has been on top of this internal struggle to manage external appearances since 2002, when it began asking people whether they would like to lose weight, and if they were, in fact, doing so.
In its latest query, Gallup basically found little has changed in the last couple of years with regard to the percent seriously trying to shed pounds. But it also found that, compared to 2012, the desire to lose weight has dropped significantly.
Here’s the skinny on the survey: The percent of respondents who say they are taking action to lose weight has hovered around 27 percent since 2010, inching up to 29 percent at one point, then dipping to 25 percent until the most recent survey, when it hit 26 percent.
Kind of a boring trend.
But when asked if they would like to lose weight, something has happened to the American weight-loss fixation. In 2012, 59 percent of those who were asked the question said, “Yes, I want to lose weight.” But in the latest poll, that percent had fallen to 51 percent.
“Despite the increasing focus on the negative consequences of obesity, the percentage of Americans who would like to lose weight has gone down, not up, since the early 2000s, while the percentage saying they are making a serious effort to lose it has been consistent. The margin between those who want to lose weight and those who are trying has shrunk an additional point from last year, reaching its smallest yet of 25 percentage points,” Gallup said after examining the results.
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The Gallup results showed that the desire to lose weight held steady at around 60 percent between 2002 and 2008.
“But this desire has flagged in recent years, down to its lowest level of 51 percent in the past two years. The percentage of Americans who would like to stay at their present weight has varied even less, ranging from 32 percent to 41 percent since 1990. The current reading of 40 percent is one of the highest percentages of Americans who are happy with their weight since 1996,” Gallup said.
When the data was sorted by gender, Gallup reported that far more men (19 percent) than women (10 percent) said they were under their ideal weight, while 65 percent of women said they were overweight, compared to 56 percent of men.