Over a third of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, 13 percent more than statistics showed 30 years ago. Yet fewer Americans seem willing to commit to a diet, as a new study shows weight loss struggle has turned into weight gain acceptance.
Decreased Efforts To Lose Weight
Only 49 percent of overweight and obese adults are now trying to lose weight, 7 percent less than surveys reported in the late '80s. During the last three decades, the percentage of overweight and obese adults has increased from 53 to 66, revealed the latest research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study examined data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, involving the diet habits of nearly 27,000 overweight and obese people who reported trying to lose weight in the past 12 months.
Upon analyzing their responses in three different time periods - 1988-1994, 1999-2004, and 2009-2014 - researchers found the later years of the study brought a surge in the number of obese or overweight adults but also a decline in the percentage of people still trying to lose weight.
The drop in weight loss efforts was seen particularly in overweight adults who were not yet obese, noted research authors. Of all the study participants, black women reported the highest obesity rates and also the lowest weight loss motivation, their responses pointing to the steepest fall in dieting percentages.
Fat Is The New Thin? Being Overweight Now More Socially Acceptable
Striving to lose weight can be painful and hard, the researchers said. According to Dr. Jian Zhang, senior study author and a Georgia Southern University public health researcher, maintaining your weight after a period of dieting can be difficult, and failed attempts end up discouraging people from trying again.
Researchers believe people have cut down on their efforts to shed extra pounds also because they no longer perceive having excess weight as that much of a problem.
"There's increasing evidence that adults with overweight may live as long as and sometimes even longer than normal-weight adults, making many question whether you have to take it seriously," Zhang added.
Even in clinical practice, Zhang explained, treatment for overweight is typically considered only if patients exhibit two or more additional risk factors, like hypertension or high cholesterol.
Another possible cause for the lax perception of body weight is the increased social acceptability. With obesity becoming the norm, many feel less pressure to lose weight, Zhang noted.
One theory is that body acceptance trends on social media may have been wrongfully interpreted by a large number of people, who found a sense of comfort in their body image and chose the easy path toward better self-esteem.
While body acceptance advocates do promote body positivity, they do not however promote obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, the idea is that embracing who you are should be the cornerstone of a personal improvement plan, by applying a positive attitude toward your body to get better results.
Zhang thinks people should be more concerned with the rise in obesity rates and the long-term negative effects it poses on public health, considering overweight and obesity are associated with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, infertility, and cancer.