Half (49.1%) of all Americans will set off on a weight loss journey in any given year.
Some will ditch the Tasty Cakes & Big Macs for more nutritious options, like tuna salad and veggies. Others will splurge on a digital fat loss program or download the Couch to 5K app.
(Of course, a few stragglers will order sketchy weight loss supplements from overseas that the FDA wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.)
In an era where obesity is at an all-time high, exercise and diet are more common than ever. These 25+ shocking statistics will put the entire concept of weight loss in perspective!
Just How Overweight Are Americans?
- Half of the American adults fall short of the recommended exercise requirements; a similar number report having a chronic disease diagnosis.
- In 2017–18, the U.S. obesity rates topped 42.4%.
- Experts predict that obesity-related medical services will account for 21% of America’s total healthcare costs — or about $344 billion each year.
- Weight management products and supplements continue to surge in popularity. The global arm of the industry will hit a $423.2 billion value by 2027, claiming $33 billion in sales each year.
- The COVID-19 pandemic created a 9% lull in the U.S. weight loss market.
- Health benefits are just over the horizon for obese adults who drop 10–20% of their total body weight.
Why Are Americans So Overweight?
The obesity epidemic is nothing new in the U.S. In fact, the CDC was alarmed at the trend as early as 1999 after discovering a jump from 12% to 17.9% between 1991 and 1998.
Obesity rates have more than doubled since then, likely because:
Americans Eat Too Many Calories
Over the years, American food has gotten less nutritious yet even more calorie-dense. The average daily caloric intake rose by 720 between 1961 and 2017. That’s 262,800 more calories consumed in a year than in the 60s — equivalent to about 75 pounds of fat.
The Exercise Craze of the 90s Faded Into the History Books
Unhealthy Foods Are Cheap and Widely Available
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy costs about $1.50 more per day to maintain. This leaves a nutritious diet out of reach for the 11.4% of Americans living below the poverty line, forcing them into food insecurity (10.5%) or settling for cheaper fast-food options.
Portion Sizes Are on an Upswing
Americans aren’t necessarily eating more often as much as they’re piling up their plates higher. Portion sizes across the board are now 138% bigger than they were in the 1970s. Bagels, pizza slices, pasta dishes, and muffins have also nearly doubled in size since then.
The American Diet Lacks Nutritious Balance
The standard American diet (ironically dubbed “SAD”) delivers a daily overdose of sugar, sodium, cholesterol, fat, and calories while lacking vital micronutrients. This ugly combination of nutrients and carb overload leads to 678,000+ diet-related deaths per year in America alone.
Unhealthy Foods Can Be Literally Addictive
Food manufacturers and fast-food joints now pump their meals full of salt, sugar, fats, and other addictive ingredients. These foods trigger a dopamine release in the brain, bringing a “high” sensation and leading the body to crave these ingredients.
Other Possible Reasons
There are millions of reasons Americans weigh so much and struggle with weight loss. But in addition to those listed above, we also owe high obesity rates to these facts:
- Obese children become — you guessed it — obese adults.
- Weight loss requires long-term effort.
- Americans are increasingly lazy and tech-obsessed.
- Dining out and take-out meals are rooted in American culture.
Note: The tech obsession is ironic since some statistics correlate better work productivity with exercise.
Solving America’s obesity epidemic isn’t as simple as down-sizing 7-Eleven’s Big Gulps, un-canceling recess, or telling Americans to simply diet more and eat less (we tried that …).
Until we undo or fine-tune each of the above explanations, America will almost always be one of the fattest nations on Earth.
What are the Global Statistics on Overweight Adults?
- There are about one billion overweight adults across the globe, and that number is only expected to climb.
- In 2016, nearly four in ten adults (39%) across the planet were overweight.
Which Countries Have the Highest Obesity Rates?
With more than 42.4% of Americans tipping the scale into that “obese” range, many consider the U.S. the “fattest” nation. However, that unfortunate title actually goes to these countries:
|Country or Nation||Obesity Rate (as of 2016)|
(The U.S. ranked #12 on that list, so we’re not completely blameless. Many on this list have poor health education, Westernization of food, urbanization, and sedentary lifestyles to blame.)
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International Approaches and Attitudes Toward Weight Loss
The U.S. isn’t the only country struggling with its weight. Here’s how our friends overseas are coping with the global obesity epidemic:
- In the United Kingdom, 40.54% of adults reported weight loss during the pandemic, solidifying the most success of all countries. The U.S. came in behind the UK, Canada, the globe, and Australia with 27.71%.
- Sixty-seven percent of UK adults meet the government’s “active” guidelines, while 47% of young people and children can say the same.
- Seventy-seven percent of adults in China resort to exercise to lose weight.
- Physical inactivity was on the rise in China from 1991 to 2006. Exercise at the workplace plummeted 35% in men and 46% in women, while women were also less active around the house (-66%).
- With car sales exploding 30% per year in China, locals are increasingly more reliant on vehicles than traveling by foot.
- In 2016, 46% of Aussies admitted to a weight loss attempt within the last year. Some 47% of those same people splurged on a particular diet or fitness program.
Mexico, South America, and the Netherlands
- Of those who hope to shed a few pounds in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and the Netherlands, two in three would not diet but rather eat more healthily.
Common Trends to Achieve Weight Loss: Diet and Exercise
- The most popular weight-loss strategies include exercise (62.9%) and dietary restrictions (62.9%), though 88.3% of adults try more than one method.
- Both diet and exercise can be effective for weight loss. One 12-week-long study found that burning 500 calories a day via the treadmill could shred 6.2kg and create an impressive body fat dip (26.7% to 19%). Those dieting ended the intervention with 25% body fat, down from 31.4% on day one.
Which Is Better for Weight Loss: Diet or Exercise? (The Truth)
There’s a reason we turn to diet and exercise at equal rates: both nurture a caloric deficit — either through calorie restrictions or calorie-burning — and encourage weight loss.
But which translates better on the scale?
Most health experts agree that dieting is more effective for weight loss in general. It’s much easier to cut 500 calories/day through diet than to run about five miles to burn the same amount.
However, a combination of the two strategies produces even more impressive results, according to a 2011 study.
Researchers recruited a group of 439 overweight or obese postmenopausal women and assigned them to one of three groups:
- Exercise (five 45-minute sessions of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week)
- Diet (1,200–2,000 calories per day with fewer than 30% of calories from fat)
- Diet & Exercise (a combination of both interventions)
After a year, the exercise group lost 2.4% of their weight, which is an impressive feat. But the diet and combination groups ended the program even slimmer (8.5% vs. 10.8% weight loss).
Diet and exercise (not or) can increase long-term weight loss success by as much as 20%.
Other studies have discovered the same or similar results.
So if you want to maximize your weight loss, adopt a cardio routine and replace the unhealthy snacks with low-calorie, healthy alternatives (i.e., salads). If you must choose one, diet!
The Best Workout to Lose Weight: Aerobic Exercise
- Health experts recommend three aerobic training sessions a week, with each session lasting at least 20 minutes. But longer is better for weight loss goals!
- Fifteen minutes of daily moderate-intensity exercise can torch an extra 100 calories.
- A 700-calorie weekly deficit can translate to ten pounds of weight loss in a year.
- Physical activity — specifically aerobic exercise — is scientifically proven to nurture weight loss or maintenance. You can achieve this goal with 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous weekly training.
- Aerobic training is more effective for fat loss than resistance training over an eight-month period (1.76 kg vs. 0.83 kg, respectively).
What Counts As Aerobic Exercise? Just About Everything.
When we think about aerobic exercise, we immediately think of pounding the pavement, knee aches, side stitches (cramps), sweating in public, puddles — an absolute nightmare for most.
But, as it turns out, even runners dislike running. Just about half “barely tolerate” it or flat-out hate it, according to a Strava survey.
A 2,000-person survey also found that 25% of people would cancel Netflix for a year, and 29% would reconnect with a high school bully if it meant they never had to exercise again (what.).
Luckily, cardio goes much further than traditional jogging. The table below details some of the more popular running alternatives and how many calories you can burn in a 30-minute session:
|Exercise Type||Average Calories Burned In 30 Minutes||With Five 30-Minute Sessions Per Week, You Can Lose …|
|Walking (3 MPH)||105–180 calories||0.15–0.26 lbs of fat|
|Biking||225–375 calories||0.32–0.54 lbs of fat|
|Battle Ropes||210–336 calories||0.30–0.48 lbs of fat|
|Swimming||215–287 calories||0.31–0.41 lbs of fat|
|Stair-Climbing||235–285 calories||0.34–0.41 lbs of fat|
|Rowing||255–377 calories||0.36–0.54 lbs of fat|
|Jumping Rope||250–500 calories||0.36–0.71 lbs of fat|
|Circuit Training||240–355 calories||0.34–0.51 lbs of fat|
On average, you could shred 0.43 pounds of fat with five 30-minute cardio sessions a week. If you cut another 215 calories from your diet each day, you could drop a full pound a week.
The caveat — of course — is your training intensity.
Research from 2009 identified 60.2%–80% of your maximum heart rate as the “maximal fat oxidation” zone. This is where a Fitbit or heart rate monitor will come in handy!
Other Health Benefits of Aerobic Exercise
There’s a reason the CDC, AHA, and other health organizations recommend 75–150 minutes of exercise per week: it’s scientifically proven to lower the risk of other health conditions.
On top of dropping ten pounds in a year by walking a mile a day (or thereabouts), adding cardio to your routine can also lessen your risk of developing diseases like:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Heart Disease (America’s #1 Killer)
- Some Cancers
- Osteoarthritis & Osteoporosis
- Depression & Other Mental Health Conditions
Furthermore, hitting these targets can also add years to your lifespan. A study published in PLOS Medicine hinted that those who follow these guidelines could live 3.4–4.5 years longer!
Even meeting half of that requirement may prolong your life by 1.8 years. But if you’re a resistance training enthusiast, go for a walk every now and then.
The truth is, there is no magic weight loss cure. No amount of fat burners or whatever snake oil TV doctors are shilling these days will help you meet your goals with close-to-zero effort.
But here’s what will help:
- Follow the at-home fitness trends; there are literally dozens available for just $99/year on Beachbody On Demand.
- Replace a meal a day with a meal replacement shake; they won’t activate any special fat-burning mechanisms, but they’ll silence your appetite with much fewer calories (~100) than your usual meal.
- Drink more water; your body desperately needs it, it’s 100% free of calories, and it can even make you feel full when your appetite usually strikes.
- Lift weights; not only can it help you build muscle and increase your metabolism naturally, but it doesn’t require much at all (a resistance band set or dumbbells)
- Create a regular sleep schedule; unpredictable sleep schedules and short sleeps can increase appetite and lead to weight gain.
Weight loss isn’t always easy. But it is possible!
Additional Source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm
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