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Americans on a quest to slim down have lots of company: Almost half of U.S. adults — 49 percent — tried to lose weight in the past year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported in a new data brief.
With two out of three Americans now overweight or obese, some experts found the findings encouraging.
“I applaud people for trying to make a change,” Isabel Maples, a registered dietician and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told TODAY. “I think people do understand that healthy weight is important.”
The findings are based on responses from about 5,000 people across the country and collected from 2013 to 2016 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Some of the report’s other insights into dieters’ mindset and behavior included:
More women than men tried to lose weight
About 56 percent of women tried to slim down, compared to 41 percent of men. Maples wasn’t surprised.
“When you hear about people wanting to lose weight, you hear about it with women more often. Women don’t need as many calories, typically, as men and we tend to gain weight easier,” she said.
“There’s also a lot of societal pressure for women to look good, be at a normal weight, versus men.”
Many slim people still wanted to become thinner
More than a quarter — 26 percent — of underweight or normal-weight adults tried to shed pounds. That worried Maples, who said eating disorders could be an issue.
“It scares me a little bit that it could be that people are feeling pressured to lose weight to the point that they’re doing some unhealthy things,” she noted.
Still, losing weight was the biggest priority among people who weighed the most: 66 percent of obese adults and 49 percent those who were overweight said they tried to slim down.
These are the most popular ways to lose weight:
Of those who tried who slim down:
- 62 percent exercised
- 62 percent ate less
- 50 percent ate more fruits, vegetables or salads
- 44 percent drank a lot of water
- 42 percent at less junk food or fast food
- 38 percent changed their eating habits
- 38 percent ate less sugar, candy or sweets
- 35 percent switched to foods with lower calories
- 30 percent ate fewer carbs
- 29 percent ate less fat
- 16 percent skipped meals
Most people tried two or more of those methods. Maples praised the top three strategies in particular, saying they could get lead to weight loss, and even if not, "they’re good lifestyle changes on their own,” she noted.
She was more critical of skipping meals, concerned that dieters would get over-hungry and then overeat.
Some tips if you're trying to lose weight:
Maples offered this advice:
1. There’s no perfect diet. Find something you can stick with for the long term.
2. Maintaining weight is an OK goal. The first step may be to prevent your weight from creeping up year after year.
3. Try to get more nutrition in every bite. You’re taking in fewer calories, so you need to make them count. Focus on fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-dense foods.
4. Keep some of your favorite foods in small portions for an occasional treat. If you feel deprived, you’re probably not going to stick with your diet.
5. Have a goal you can control. You may not have power over the number your scale displays on a particular day, but what you can control is: Did I get out and exercise? Did I eat four servings of vegetables today?
6. Focus on progress, not perfection. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting to your “perfect” weight. Just make real, positive changes. Think of past failed efforts as gaining weight management skills.
7. Don't forget to be good to your body. It's normal during weight loss to be a little hungry sometimes, but avoid going so long between meals that you feel out of control and overeat. It's also OK to tell yourself in the evening that the kitchen is closed, so you don't overgraze.
8. You don’t have to get to your ideal body weight to enjoy better health. For people who have chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure, even losing 5 or 7 percent of body weight can make a big difference, Maples said.