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Why are fewer Americans trying to lose weight?

Story highlights

  • More Americans are overweight or obese, but fewer are trying to lose weight, says a new study
  • “I can’t sit in judgment,” says one woman about her own weight loss journey
In the past, the 57-year-old Gilmer, Texas, resident would try fad diets that did nothing but leave her feeling frustrated, she said.
“There was one called a grapefruit diet or something where you didn’t eat anything but grapefruit,” Henson said. “If you do something like that, that’s what I meant by ‘diet’ being a failure.”
She didn’t consistently exercise, either. Although she didn’t have any serious health conditions, she knew that her lifestyle was killing her. Henson was 5-foot-4 and 332 pounds.
Woman ditches diets, loses 160 pounds
Then, about six years ago, Henson was listening to the radio when an ad for Anytime Fitness blasted through the speakers. She said a quick prayer: “God, I wish we had one of those here.”
Two weeks later, a gym opened in her neighborhood.
“I looked at it as an answered prayer,” Henson said. “If that hadn’t happened, there’s a possibility I could have died or have any of the conditions associated with being obese. There’s a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family. I was headed in that direction, and I didn’t want to go there.”
Ever since, Henson has been going to the gym daily with two of her friends and has been preparing healthier meals for herself. She has lost 175 pounds — more than 50% of her previous body weight — and she is keeping the weight off, she said. She has ditched fad diets and avoids placing too much emphasis on how much she weighs and instead focuses on how she feels.
But she remembers how easy it was to stick to the same old foods and avoid exercising, and how hard it was to find a healthier routine that led to long-term weight loss.
Across the United States, obesity rates are rising. But fewer Americans are trying to lose weight, according to a paper published in the journal JAMA last month.
Experts are now trying to figure out why: whether it’s because they don’t realize they’re at an unhealthy weight, because weight loss is hard or something else entirely.

‘I can’t sit in judgment’

Before her weight loss, Henson was just like the more than one-third of American adults who meet the criteria for obesity, as their body mass indexes are 30 or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than two in three American adults are considered to be obese or overweight, with body mass indexes 25 and higher.
Being overweight or obese may increase the risk of many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
1 in 5 people will be obese by 2025, study says
The new paper showed that more than 30% of Americans said they were obese in 2015, compared with about 19% in 1997. Of those who were overweight or obese, about 49% said they were trying to lose weight in 2014, compared with about 55% in 1994.
“I’ve pondered that several times, as to why some people would want to be unhealthy when they can be healthy, but there are so many variables in someone’s life that you don’t know about,” Henson said.
“I can’t sit in judgment as to why that person wants to or doesn’t want to. I just know what I needed and what I needed to do to change,” she said. “You can’t change what you’ve tried in the past, but you can set your sights for a better future.
“Everyone’s on a different path, a different journey,” Henson said.

Is there a ‘new normal’?

Passing judgment, body shaming and weight discrimination are problematic for public health. Some doctors hope to make that clear while stressing the importance of reducing obesity, which has become an epidemic in America.
As obesity rates have increased, what many people perceive as “overweight” or a “normal weight” has shifted, said Dr. Jian Zhang, an associate professor at Georgia Southern University’s College of Public Health and lead author of the new paper.
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In previous research, Zhang and his colleagues found that more overweight or obese adolescents incorrectly believed that their body weights were “just fine,” compared with adolescents in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
For the new paper, “we hypothesized that the prevalent misperception may lead to a lack of motivation to lose weight. The current study just provides the missing piece of the puzzle,” Zhang said.
“We are stuck in a vicious cycle. More people are getting obese; more are fine with their weight; when they are looking around, they find more persons with even larger bodies, and more are getting less motivated to lose weight, and in turn, we are getting even heavier,” he said.
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Dr. Randy Rockney, a pediatrician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, has noticed the same thing happening among children, he said.
“Increasing obesity and overweight trends probably result in ‘new normals,’ ” said Rockney, who was not involved in the new paper.
“Looking at society in general, overweight and obese people are less likely to perceive themselves as aberrant,” he said. “It’s really hard to lose weight, but it’s not impossible, and I think there are a lot of people who have given up.”
Rockney, 63, knows those challenges too well.

A pediatrician and his weight struggles

Rockney has always been an avid exerciser, as well as a foodie. He has never been obese but often falls within the overweight category, he said.
Standing at 6-foot-1, Rockney said his weight has fluctuated since he was in medical school, from the mid-180s to a high of 218, which meets the criteria for “overweight.”
Rockney never really made an effort to closely monitor his weight or lose pounds until well into his 50s, he said. That’s when his blood-sugar levels started creeping up, a sign of prediabetes.
“The numbers are very sensitive to my weight,” he said of his blood-sugar levels. “If I go up by five pounds, it will change the numbers adversely, and then, conversely, losing five pounds makes a significant improvement.”
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parent container Id of the video element*/function findNextVideo(currentVideoId) {var i,vidObj;if (currentVideoId && jQuery.isArray(currentVideoCollection) && currentVideoCollection.length > 0) {for (i = 0; i 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.showEndSlateForContainer();}}}callbackObj = {onPlayerReady: function (containerId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.reportLoadTime(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleInitialExpandableVideoState(containerId);CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, CNN.pageVis.isDocumentVisible());if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {var containerClassId = ‘#’ + containerId;if (jQuery(containerClassId).parents(‘.js-pg-rail-tall__head’).length) {videoPinner = new CNN.VideoPinner(containerClassId);videoPinner.init();} else {CNN.VideoPlayer.hideThumbnail(containerId);}}},/** Listen to the metadata event which fires right after the ad ends and the actual video playback begins*/onContentEntryLoad: function(containerId, playerId, contentid, isQueue) {CNN.VideoPlayer.showSpinner(containerId);},onContentMetadata: function (containerId, playerId, metadata, contentId, duration, width, height) {var endSlateLen = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0).length;CNN.VideoSourceUtils.updateSource(containerId, metadata);if (endSlateLen > 0) {videoEndSlateImpl.fetchAndShowRecommendedVideos(metadata);}},onAdPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, token, mode, id, duration, blockId, adType) {clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);if (blockId === 0) {(new Image()).src = “//traffic.outbrain.com/network/trackpxl?advid=814&action=view”;}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentPlay: function (containerId, cvpId, event) {var playerInstance,prevVideoId;/** When the video content starts playing, inject analytics data* for Aspen (if enabled) and the companion ad layout* (if it was set when the ad played) should switch back to* epic ad layout. onContentPlay calls updateCompanionLayout* with the ‘restoreEpicAds’ layout to make this switch*/if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreEpicAds’);}clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);if (CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(containerId) === ‘fave’) {playerInstance = FAVE.player.getInstance(containerId) || null;} else {playerInstance = containerId && window.cnnVideoManager.getPlayerByContainer(containerId).videoInstance.cvp || null;}prevVideoId = (window.jsmd && window.jsmd.v && (window.jsmd.v.eVar18 || window.jsmd.v.eVar4)) || ”;if (playerInstance && typeof playerInstance.reportAnalytics === ‘function’) {if (prevVideoId.length === 0 && document.referrer && document.referrer.search(//videos//) >= 0) {prevVideoId = document.referrer.replace(/^(?:http|https)://[^/]/videos/(.+.w+)(?:/video/playlists/.*)?$/, ‘/video/$1’);if (prevVideoId === document.referrer) {prevVideoId = ”;}}playerInstance.reportAnalytics(‘videoPageData’, {videoCollection: currentVideoCollectionId,videoBranding: CNN.omniture.branding_content_page,templateType: CNN.omniture.template_type,nextVideo: nextVideoId,previousVideo: prevVideoId,referrerType: ”,referrerUrl: document.referrer});}if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);videoPinner.animateDown();}}},onContentReplayRequest: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(true);var $endSlate = jQuery(document.getElementById(containerId)).parent().find(‘.js-video__end-slate’).eq(0);if ($endSlate.length > 0) {$endSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–active’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’);}}}},onContentBegin: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {CNN.VideoPlayer.mutePlayer(containerId);if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘removeEpicAds’);}CNN.VideoPlayer.hideSpinner(containerId);clearTimeout(moveToNextTimeout);CNN.VideoSourceUtils.clearSource(containerId);jQuery(document).triggerVideoContentStarted();},onContentComplete: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (CNN.companion && typeof CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout === ‘function’) {CNN.companion.updateCompanionLayout(‘restoreFreewheel’);}navigateToNextVideo(contentId, containerId);},onContentEnd: function (containerId, cvpId, contentId) {if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone && !Modernizr.mobile && !Modernizr.tablet) {if (typeof videoPinner !== ‘undefined’ && videoPinner !== null) {videoPinner.setIsPlaying(false);}}},onCVPVisibilityChange: function (containerId, cvpId, visible) {CNN.VideoPlayer.handleAdOnCVPVisibilityChange(containerId, visible);}};if (typeof configObj.context !== ‘string’ || configObj.context.length 0) {configObj.adsection = window.ssid;}CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibrary(configObj, callbackObj, isLivePlayer);});/* videodemanddust is a default feature of the injector */CNN.INJECTOR.scriptComplete(‘videodemanddust’);

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