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Weight Control

America's Weight Problem: What Are We Doing Right and Wrong?

With evidence of continued problems with weight in this country, and latest estimates that more than half of American adults are overweight, a recent national survey has taken a look at why weight is such a problem.

Although the answer is complex, there is some evidence of what Americans are doing right — and wrong — regarding weight control, according to the Calorie Control Council, which conducted the survey.

What We're Doing Right

  • We're NOT dieting. Americans continue to understand that traditional dieting (deprivation, short-term solutions) spells failure, the survey found. Instead, it takes permanent lifestyle changes to take and keep weight off. Only 27 percent of American adults (54 million people) are currently dieting. And, dieters are more likely to be practicing sensible dieting behaviors, Calorie Control Council found — for example, 95 percent are cutting down on high-fat foods and beverages, compared with 81 percent in 1986.

  • We're eating more healthfully — 71 percent of American adults said they are eating a healthier diet today than they were three years ago.

  • We're choosing low-calorie and reduced-fat foods and beverages. An overwhelming 90 percent of consumers eat or drink lighter versions of their favorite foods on a regular basis. And, 70 percent of light product consumers are NOT on a diet, the survey found.

  • We're paying attention to nutrition labels. A sizable majority (62 percent) said they always try to check nutrition labels to determine the fat content in foods and beverages they buy. In addition, 55 percent said they always try to check for calories.

What We're Doing Wrong

  • We're not exercising enough. Although 39 percent of adults said they exercise at least five times a week, that still leaves almost two-thirds of American adults who get inadequate exercise, Calorie Control Council said. Regular exercise is the way to winning the weight war — and it doesn't have to be exhausting. The 1996 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, even if it is in short bouts, such as walking stairs, doing housework or playing actively with children.

  • We're still eating too much fat. The most recent government data indicate that Americans still get, on average, 34 percent of their daily calories from fat. Most nutritionists recommend limiting fat intake to 30 percent. The good news is, a decade ago the average American got 40 percent of calories from fat, Calorie Control Council noted.

  • We're eating too much, period. Our calorie intake keeps going up — currently at more than 2,000 calories a day compared with 1,800 in the 1970s — and health experts agree that excess calories from any source will contribute to obesity, and that "calories still count."

  • We're faced with powerful obstacles to weight loss. The survey asked people who said they needed to lose weight why they hadn't been successful maintaining their desired weight. The No. 1 answer: "don't exercise enough." This reason was followed by "snack too much," "eat too many high-fat foods," "too often binge on favorite foods," "often overeat at meal-times" and "often eat for emotional reasons."

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing