Gallup Poll Reports 'Ideal Weight' in America is Expanding

The obesity epidemic is expected to reach new levels over the next eighteen years.  Currently, 36 percent of the U.S. population is obese, but if obesity continues to grow at the current rate, by 2030 half of all Americans will be obese. (Obese and overweight are determined by body mass index (BMI), a ratio calculated based on height to weight ratio.)

obesity in america BMI

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the current tool for measuring obesity and overweight.

And, according to a Gallup poll released in November 2012, many Americans are not concerned with losing weight, but rather changing their standards of “ideal.” Supermodels may get skinnier every year, but Americans have come to accept that the ideal weight for the average Joe is 162 pounds – up 13 pounds from 12 years ago. This is the highest perceived ideal weight ever reported and, when asked, 60 percent of Americans would say their weight is just about right, despite the soaring number of overweight and obese individuals nationwide.

According to the poll, the average ideal weight for men is 185 pounds and for women, 140 pounds. At present, the actual average weight for men and women in the U.S. is 196 pounds and 156 pounds, respectively.

The CDC reports that 36 percent of American are obese and another 33 percent are carrying excess pounds that contribute to higher healthcare costs and an increased risk of disease, including stroke, heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

Sixty-five percent of individuals polled said they exceeded their ideal and 54 percent said they would like to lose weight, however only 25 percent were actively pursuing efforts to lose weight.

It seems that the kind of change many are hoping for is simply not happening. Despite campaigns to educate the masses on the health benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, most Americans are simply changing their standards. The Gallup report stated that the report of a mere 25 percent actively pursuing weight loss is the lowest number in that category in years.

What’s your opinion of these, dare I say, “startling” results? Everyone knows the obesity epidemic is real and a danger to the health of every individual it affects, yet the attitudes of general population are not focused on a cure, but rather acceptance. Acceptance of a lower quality of life, a greater risk of disease and an early death – is that really something we should accept?

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15 comments

  1. Wow…never read much into ideal weights. I don’t even think I’d look good at around 150. Do you happen to know the height that this would be based on?

    1. There is no such thing as a universal ideal weight – too many factors play into a person’s weight. These results are not based on specific heights, so it is difficult to make personal comparisons. It is more a discussion of perception…just like in the ’80s it was ok for supermodels to be curvy and now they must look like hangers?….From the case of personal perception, people are becoming more accepting of themselves at a higher weight because more of the population is overweight or obese than normal weight. These average “ideal” weights would not be considered overweight or obese for average height to tall individuals, but of the people polled, this is a weight they feel they would be “happy” at…. in the past it was always a lower weight. This would be a good thing, if it was related to improvements in self-esteem and self-acceptance, but speculation is that it is related to the obesity crisis and comparisons as such.

  2. Certainly a correlation to obesity levels. Part of me wants to go more in depth with this. I think we’ve lost a good amount of accountability in this world. It currently is not okay for other people to perceive you as someone negative. As much as I hate being seen as fat/obese, I know that I got myself here and I’m not sure if that’s the mindset of many others. So, if we make it ok to be unhealthy and big, I can certainly see the ideal weight rising. Very interesting 🙂

  3. Wow, there’s a lot of disillusioned people out there. Some very interesting and slightly worrying statistics there Dani. But ultimately people need to educate themselves be totally honest with themselves. Otherwise it’s a losing battle against that ever increasing waistline.

    1. Totally agree – I read an article in 2008 that speculated on this very topic – suggesting that Americans would soon lower there expectations for pursuing a healthy lifestyle because they are not as “bad” comparatively speaking. And here, 4 years later this poll confirms those fears. We have to get more people to embrace the pursuit of health for personal well-being not just aesthetic comparison. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Renea Cribbs · · Reply

    I have spoken with several people about their perceptions of thier own weight, one person told me, “When I see a picture of myself that is not what I see when I look in the mirror”. The picture is her reality check, the mirror is what is in her mind’s eye. How we are deceived by our minds! Our own mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy. I like the gentlemen’s comment about being honest with ourselves, that would be good for everyone.

    1. Good point, thanks for sharing!

  5. it’s happening here in Asia as well.

    1. Sadly, the obesity epidemic seems to be a global issue – making the need for a solution paramount.

  6. Oh, how interesting and provocative, Dani. I wonder if a number *alone* is enough information to make assessment of someone’s physical health. Nothing is mentioned about a person’s activity level or height or genetics and so on. And that is why, on some level, I find studies like this somewhat misleading as they only show part of the information… It’s interesting as heck though. You go girl!

    1. Hi Teeny Bikini – thanks for your comments and checking out my blog! You are correct, this poll has a lot of holes in it. It does not take into account multiple factors that would truly determine each individual’s ideal weight. This poll, however does shed light on the fact that many people are taking comfort in a heavier weight, compared to years past. Not sure if you saw my discussion with Joe, but these average “ideal” weights would not be considered overweight or obese for average height to tall individuals and certainly they don’t even consider bone structure, but of the people polled, this is a weight they feel they would be “happy” at – in the past it was always a lower number. This would be a good thing, if it were related to improvements in self-esteem and self-acceptance, but speculation is that it is related to the obesity crisis and comparisons as such.

      1. The whole idea is really fascinating. Thanks so much for following up and sharing such intriguing info…. 🙂

  7. VERY scary stats there.
    People need to change the way they think, even if they start to think someone that is ‘overweight’ as ‘ideal’, they need to realised that just because they’re ‘ideal’ doesn’t mean the health problems will go away.

    1. Thanks for your comment! You are correct – there is no definitive weight that ensures health because so many factors play into each individual person’s weight. That is why the government uses BMI to classify weight and make comparisons, but even that system is flawed. What is known is that for overweight and obese individuals, losing weight does improve health risks. For example, the loss of 2.2 pounds reduces levels of inflammation in the body by 0.13 milligrams/liter, which is significant when you considered that 1 mg/L of inflammation is low risk of cardiovascular disease and 3 mg/L or more is high risk….every little bit helps. Losing 10 percent of one’s body weight will significantly reduce multiple disease factors, including insulin resistance. And, for some weight doesn’t even tell the whole story… Type 2 diabetes can affect “skinny” people too. You know those that never gain weight and eat all the junk they want? Their levels of inflammation and visceral fat (fat around the organs) can be deadly, even compared to someone who might be classified as overweight, but pursues a healthy lifestyle. It’s an interesting paradox – although we long to quantify health, it is a very personal achievement – inside and out.

  8. […] a poll out late last year, approximately 50 percent respondents believed that their weight was “just […]

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