Over one-third of Americans are obese, but only a few of them are trying to lose weight – much less than in the past, new research shows.
Researchers analyzed around 27,000 overweight or obese people in the USA who reported that they were trying to slim down in the past year, TIME reports. The team then looked at data from three time periods: 1988-1994, 1999-2004 and 2009-2014.
They found that the number of adults who were overweight or obese had gone up in the later years, but the number of people who said they were trying to lose weight fell from 56% in the early 1990s to just 49% in the latest years.
The biggest drop in attempts to reach regular weight was more prominent in black women, who also had the highest rates of obesity, the study says. More information is necessary to identify if this is due to biological or cultural differences among various populations when it comes to weight gain and weight loss, the researchers add.
Dr. Jian Zhang of Georgia Southern University, study author, thinks that one of the main reasons people give up trying to lose weight is because they struggle to shed pounds, only to gain them back again. Zhang says,
It’s painful and hard to drop pounds. Many of us try and fail, try and fail, and then fail to try again.
Another factor is that there are studies showing that overweight people often live as long as people of normal weight. This may make obesity seem like a less important problem, especially if the person is otherwise healthy, Zhang says. It has become the norm to stay overweight or obese, so people feel less pressure to lose weight.
On the bright side, it’s also possible that some people may be doing healthy activities without the goal of losing weight, which the study was not able to capture. “Hopefully this is the case,” Zhang says.
But people should still be cautious when it comes to their weight, as obesity is linked closely to higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases, he states.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.