As a personal trainer, many of my clients come to me to help them develop a successful weight loss and fitness routine. And over the years, I’ve had to adjust my approach because so many people fail to achieve a long-term healthy weight.
That led me to do extensive research with my colleagues at TotalShape, including a dietitian, to find out the actual statistics behind the weight loss industry.
We hoped to gain enough insights to create better weight loss plans, but even we were surprised by some of the statistics.
Here’s what we found out.
- The global pandemic has caused even more body weight issues in obese Americans, with the average weight loss going down.
- Popular exercise classes like CrossFit can burn up to 800 calories per hour, with a Zumba class burning up to 600 calories.
- Income and education are two of the most dominant demographic predictors of obesity levels in America.
- Only about 20% of obese people can successfully maintain the weight they lose for more than a year.
The Scary Statistics About Weight
Our first step was to look at the official statistics about the weight status of Americans.
General Body Weight Statistics
- A RunPeat survey has highlighted that over 70% of Americans gained weight during Covid-related lockdowns, and over 60% said they struggled with weight maintenance .
- The use of wearable health technology like smartwatches and other activity trackers has fallen significantly in recent years, making it more challenging to monitor physical activity accurately .
- Obesity levels in Colorado are the lowest at 22.6%, while they are almost double that in West Virginia at 38.1% .
- In a typical 12-month period, about half of all American adults tried to lose weight, with eating less and exercising being the most common methods tried .
- Even a modest 10% to 20% reduction in weight among obese adults can result in significant health benefits that can lead to a more active life .
- People who go on a weight loss journey with friends and family have a far higher success rate of achieving long-term health benefits .
- The average person tries out two different fad diets a year that they abandon after less than six months .
- A BMI of 25 to 30 is classed as overweight, with any BMI over 30 being in the obese range .
- Ideal BMI levels for a healthy adult are between 18.5 and 25, where morbidity and mortality are lowest .
Age-Based Weight Statistics
- The rate of obese and overweight people is highest in the 40 to 49 age group at 44.8% and lowest in the 20 to 39 age group at a still staggering 40% .
- The rate of elderly Americans over 65 with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 has increased to 28.5%, which is also the most challenging age to deal with body fat .
- Over 14 million American children, or 19.3% between the ages of 2 to 19, are classified as obese or overweight .
- Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, leading to large numbers of young people being treated for diseases that were previously common only in older age groups .
Gender-Based Weight Statistics
- Men aged 40 to 49 have the highest rate of obesity at 46.4%, compared to 43.3% for women in the same age group .
- Women living in low-income households in the age group of 35 to 44 have the highest rates of obesity and resulting health issues .
- The trend of female obesity levels has outpaced men for several years, with obese women now outnumbering men .
- The gender gap towards higher female than male obesity levels usually starts developing in the formative teenage years .
- Studies on adolescents have revealed that weight perception is a more critical factor in mental health than the actual weight, especially in teenage girls .
- The average woman and man in America have a BMI of about 26.5, which is well into the overweight range .
Morbidity Statistics For Obesity
The reason why drastically increasing weight problem in America is such a concern all comes down to the health statistics of obese and overweight adults. Here are the main morbidity facts that should highlight the importance of losing weight.
- Obesity and even overweight BMI levels are the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, meaning that eating and exercise habits are the most significant predictor of this disease .
- Excessive levels of BMI have also been linked to cardiovascular disease, with the main problems being heart inflammation and high blood pressure .
- Obese adults also have a significantly higher risk of hyperventilation syndrome, which can cause sleep apnea in almost 20% of obese adults .
- Even in non-diabetic overweight people, excessive adipose and visceral fat levels have been linked to decreased kidney function .
- The prevalence of diabetes and high-sugar and fat intake rather than healthy foods in obese adults has led to a significant increase in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease .
- And the most worrying problem with obesity is that it influences fatty acids to promote cancer cells throughout the body .
- And all those overall health statistics mean that obese people can end up with a life expectancy of 20 years shorter than those with a healthier lifestyle .
- It’s believed that over 280,000 Americans die each year due to obesity-related health issues and complications .
General Weight Loss Statistics
Losing weight seems to be a hot topic throughout the USA, and many obese people try to take some positive actions.
Here is some data about the weight loss industry and how Americans are interacting with it.
- About 45 million Americans tried to lose weight last year by spending $33 billion on products and services like weight watchers, but very few of them achieve successful weight loss .
- Gym memberships have increased from about 50 million in 2010 to 64 million in 2019 . But a large portion of that increase is attributable to the 10% increase in the U.S. population over the same period .
- Weight loss demographics show that lower levels of education and income and certain ethnic minority groups are far more likely to become and remain obese .
Most Common Weight Loss Approaches
List out statistics about different forms of diet and exercise.
- The most common dietary method for losing weight is restricting certain foods, limiting the volume of food, and monitoring calorie intake .
- Increased water intake has also been linked to modest weight loss success through a process called thermogenesis .
- Studies have shown that rather than just counting calories, counting the types of calories and limiting the intake of carbohydrates play a crucial role in weight management . Bill Bradley, a registered dietitian and CEO at Mediterranean Living, recommends a low-carb diet to help your body utilize stored fat for energy instead of the carbohydrates you consume.
- High-protein diets can lead to sustained appetite reduction and better control of overall food intake . According to Exercise with Style’s Brenda Peralta, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, proteins digest slower compared to other food items. This helps people feel fuller for far longer, allowing them to consume smaller portions across the day.
- Gastric surgery to reduce the size of the stomach has become the most common medical procedure to help deal with excessive weight levels .
- Studies have revealed many different serious health issues that are directly linked to the level of your BMI and ultimately have a life-limiting impact on health.
- Both people who sleep too much and too little have a significantly higher risk of gaining weight, further impacting sleep quality and creating a vicious circle .
Weight Loss Success Rates
Millions of people have been trying to lose weight for many years, but the statistics about success levels of achieving a healthy weight are not overly promising.
- Successful long-term weight loss is most commonly defined as losing 10% of the original weight and keeping that weight off for at least one year .
- Losing weight at a rate of 2 pounds per week for six months is an achievable and promising approach to trigger long-term motivation to maintain that new weight level .
- Studies have shown that people overestimate the effects of exercise on weight loss, with underreporting of food intake and overreporting of exercise being the main problems .
- Maintaining weight loss becomes easier with time as the body gets used to the new energy intake and expenditure, leading to 20% of overweight people successfully keeping a healthier weight .
- Weight loss plateaus are a very common burden for people to overcome, which can be related to hormone rebalancing due to weight loss. It’s not yet fully understood what influences the length of time the individuals can be at a plateau .
The True Extent Of Weight Regain
With the long-term success rate for losing body fat being quite low, it’s essential to look at how prevalent weight regain actually is.
Anyone who has tried to lose weight and ended up in that yo-yo effect on the scales knows how frustrating it can be.
- Research has shown that most people regain 75% of their initial weight loss after five years by falling back into bad habits .
- Gradually decreasing activity levels and more frequent visits to restaurants are the most common reasons people regain weight .
- Scientists believe that every human has a weight set point influenced by genetics, hormones, habits, and the environment, leading to weight fluctuations .
Why Do People Repeatedly Fail To Lose Weight?
Statistics and studies about why people give up:
- Scientists studying contestants on the TV show The Biggest Loser have identified a marked decrease in resting metabolic rate after six years, which led to the weight piling on again .
- Health psychologists have identified lockdowns associated with the Covid pandemic as having negatively impacted people’s eating habits, leading to an average weight gain of 29 pounds .
- The high cost of healthy food and gym membership and a lack of time due to long working hours are the primary reasons women especially struggle to maintain healthy lifestyle choices .
What Does This Data Say About Weight Problems In America?
The most concerning thing about these weight loss statistics is that they have shown an acceleration in overall obesity levels since the onset of the global pandemic.
While it’s still unclear why lockdowns and restrictions have had this effect, there seems to be a link between the higher percentage of poor dieting and exercise habits and the psychological impacts of the lockdowns.
A similarly worrying trend is that bodyweight increases among children have taken off in the last 30 years. Those health issues that develop in adolescents have a further knock-on effect on morbidity in adult life.
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