More than 186 million American adults – or eight out of ten men and women aged 18 and older – are “weight conscious”, according to a new national survey released this week by the Calorie Control Council. Five out of ten (54%) want to reduce their weight and noted that exercise, cutting back on sugar, using low-calorie or reduced sugar products, and restricting the size of meal portions are the most common tactics. An additional 28 percent of Americans are trying to control or maintain their weight.
America’s perspective on weight concerns appears to be well-founded. Latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics show that two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. “People are now hearing what health authorities have been saying for years – Americans are too heavy,” says James Hill, PhD, Executive Director of the University of Colorado Anschutz Health & Wellness Center and co-founder of America On The Move, a national program with a mission to improve health and quality of life by promoting healthful eating and active living among individuals, families, communities and society. “Although America has a serious weight problem, the good news is that more and more people are trying to address it.”
Among weight loss methods, cutting back on foods high in sugar was mentioned most often (by 86 percent of respondents). Other popular methods of weight control by those trying to lose weight include eating smaller portion sizes (85 percent) and consuming low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages (78 percent). Also, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans trying to lose weight say they perform moderate exercise for 45 minutes at least three times per week. At the other end of the scale, dieters do realize that short-term approaches will not result in lasting success – only 17 percent skip meals to diet, 13 percent use diet pills, and 8 percent follow restrictive weight loss diets.
While the reality may be sinking in, with many people trying to change their lifestyles for the better, most of those who are trying to lose weight admit they are frustrated by their lack of progress. They noted several obstacles to reaching their goals: not enough exercise (69 percent), metabolism slowing (62 percent) and too much snacking (52 percent). Some of the reasons given were more gender specific: Women often eat for emotional reasons (50 percent) while men find themselves overeating at mealtimes (44 percent).
“Many have taken the first step – admitting they want to lose weight for overall better health,” says Beth Hubrich, a registered dietitian with the Calorie Control Council. In fact, 50 percent of American adults now say they need to lose at least 10 pounds, up from 40 percent in 2004. To succeed, health experts agree it takes a lifestyle change – permanent changes in eating and exercise habits to reach and maintain a healthier weight. “It’s all about calories in and calories out. For healthy weight loss, reduce calories while eating a balanced diet, and burn calories through physical activity.”
“A good way to start is by stopping any further weight gain by making small lifestyle changes,” Hill notes. “Just cutting 100 calories a day can prevent the gradual weight gain experienced by most Americans. Continuing to increase regular exercise and eating smarter by reducing portions, and limiting fat and sugar intake will help in both losing weight and maintaining it. It is important to realize that these healthy changes need to be ones that can be maintained for life.”
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