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Many in U.S. No Longer Worry About Weight

Survey Shows Concern About Weight Loss Is at an All-Time Low

Survey Findings continued...

That finding is interesting for a couple of reasons, Smith Edge says. First, it represents an overall drop in the number of people who think of themselves as being overweight, and second, it shows that many people underestimate how bad their weight problem really is.

Only 57% of participants say they are concerned about their weight this year, down from 70% in 2010 and an all-time low for the survey.

Those who say they are trying to lose or maintain weight is also down, 69% in 2011 compared to 77% in 2010.

“This is a somewhat ominous trend,” says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, founding director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center in New Haven, Conn.

Katz thinks the survey may be picking up signs of a “normalization” of larger body sizes. As friends and families also grow in girth, people feel OK by comparison.

“We might like to be OK at any size, but the simple fact of the matter is that we’re not,” he says. “We are getting diabetes, we are getting heart disease, we are getting preventable cancers, many of them having to do with our size, and that’s not OK. These things are happening in our children, and that’s not OK.”

Still Confused About Calories

The number of people who say they can estimate the number of calories they need for their age, height, and weight has held steady at 9%.

Forty-two percent say they never count calories. Only 40% of those answering the survey agreed that eating and drinking more calories than are burned leads to weight gain.

Yet calories are the first thing people say they look at on a nutrition label, according to the survey.

With regard to specific dietary components, more than half of those surveyed said they were trying to limit sugar consumption, while 71% said they were trying to limit dietary fats.

Slightly more than half, 53%, said they were trying to limit sodium, about the same percentage as previous years.

Diet Burnout

“I think there is a certain element of burnout,” says Katz.

“When you’re relying on quick-fix solutions to this problem, and you’ve tried them all, you do reach a point where you stop believing,” he says. “Maybe to some extent, people have decided that they’re going to stop trying.”

“Nobody wants to acknowledge a problem they can’t fix,” Katz tells WebMD. “We have not yet done a nearly good enough job empowering people to make them feel like they really can get to the prize -- the prize being sustainable weight loss, their weight controlled without being hungry and miserable for the rest of your life.”

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