Big, Bad News: Even America’s Ideal Weight Is Getting Fatter

There are a multitude of environmental, educational, and nutritional factors that contribute to America’s ever-expanding obesity epidemic. But one of the most surprising ones might be our own perceptions of what a healthy weight actually is. According to a Gallup poll released this morning, as America’s weight creeps up, so does their perception of what an “ideal” weight is. Yes, even our goal weights are getting fatter.

This morning’s statistics show two increases: first, an increase in the self-reported weights of Americans; and second, an increase in what Americans think of as an “ideal” weight. Since 1990, the average woman in the US has reportedly gained about 20 lbs, going from 142 to 160 lbs. And right along with the numbers on the scale, her idea of a healthy or ideal weight has also gone up–from 129 to 138 in the last 20 years.

Just 17% of women report being at their “ideal” weight. And yet, 52% of women report feeling that their current weight is “about right” for their body.

Sure, most Americans are pretty terrible at estimating their own weight, which is concerning. They also falsely believe that their diets are healthy. But when they’re not good at estimating what a healthy weight is, the problem gets much more psychological. As more and more individuals see their own weight climbing up, what is actually a healthy weight seems to go right up along with them–possibly because many individuals don’t want to think that their weight is so far from what’s healthy.

Which isn’t surprising–but it is alarming; it indicates that people really, genuinely may not understand what it means to be a healthy weight, which isn’t easily cured with a new diet plan or more healthy food options. What may be able to help, however, are more frank conversations with health care professionals–who often avoid telling their patients the truth about their weight, because they rightfully assume that their patients don’t want to hear it.

Projections of America’s weight in the future are pretty grim–at the trajectory we’re on, as many as 72% of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020. And what these numbers from Gallup show is that when that happens, it’s possible many people won’t even notice.

Being overweight or obese is already kind of the new normal–but it shouldn’t also be the new ideal.

Image: Jakub Cejpek / Shutterstock

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    • Joyce

      Well, as long as I’m below 175 (I’m 5’9″) I’m happy.

    • kristin

      I always thought I was “average” on the “thin” side (size 8-10) but I changed my diet and started exercising and couldn’t believe how much weight came off, and how much more there still is to go. It makes me so depressed to think about obese people and how far they are from a healthy weight.