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