The fat of the land: Americans are heavier, but happy

November 29, 2017

Americans continue to pile on the pounds, according to the findings of a Gallup poll released on November 22—but few consider their weight to be a problem. A majority of men (59%) and women (53%) now see their weight as “about right,” while 6% of both sexes think they are underweight.

From 2003 through 2007 and from 2013 through 2017, the self-reported weight of Americans edged up—along with the number of pounds that respondents consider to be their “ideal” weight—according to the researchers. Indeed, as a nation, our ideal weight has increased by four pounds over that time period, from 157 pounds to 161 pounds. However, the number of Americans who consider themselves to be overweight actually has declined—from 41% to 38%.

And in line with those findings, the percentage of Americans who say they want to lose weight has declined from 60% to 52%. .

Women are more likely than men to describe themselves as overweight. What’s more, the difference between their self-reported weight and their “ideal weight” is larger than it is for men. During the past five years, Gallup reported, there has been an average 18-pound difference between women’s 158-pound actual weight and their 140-pound ideal weight. The gap for men is 12 pounds: 195-pound actual weight versus 183-pound ideal weight.

Not only do men and women differ in their perceptions of how far they are from their ideal weight, but those differences also show up when looking at age, education and income levels.

The higher the income bracket for men, the wider the gap, on average, between actual weight and ideal weight. For those with annual household incomes of less than $30,000, the average difference is nine pounds, but for men with annual incomes of $75,000 or more, the difference averages 14 pounds — most of it the result of more affluent men weighing more on average than those with lower incomes.

The opposite is true for women: Those with household incomes of less than $30,000 have an average difference between actual and ideal weight of 22 pounds, but it drops to 15 pounds for those in the $75,000-and-above income bracket. A similar split occurs with regard to education. Men with no college have the smallest gap between what they want to weigh and what they do weigh. Women with no college have the largest gap.

About 5,000 adult Americans were interviewed by telephone for each of the polls used to arrive at this year’s findings.

Research contact:  datainquiry@gallup.com

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