An Increasing Number of Americans Weigh 200 Pounds—and Say They Are OK With It

More Americans weighed over 200 pounds in the 2010s than in the previous decade—and more than ever are content with being heavier, according to data released Wednesday by Gallup.

The data came from Gallup's Health and Healthcare survey, which the organization said was conducted in November of each year. The survey responses for 2019 were collected between November 1 and November 14 from a random selection of 1,015 adults living in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Most people in the United States are overweight or obese, according to data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In 2013 and 2014, about 70 percent of Americans had body mass indices above 25, which is considered the threshold of a "healthy" weight. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Analysis of Gallup's survey responses from Americans in the closing 2010s revealed that more reported weighing over 200 pounds than in the decade that began in 2001. While, in the previous decade, only 12 percent of women said they weighed over 200 pounds, that increased to 14 percent between 2010 and 2019. The uptick in higher reported weights was slightly steeper among men; 38 percent between 2001 and 2009 said they were over 200 pounds, while 42 percent said they were at least that heavy in the current decade.

Eliminating gender as a variable and considering national averages, just under a quarter (24 percent) of Americans said they weighed over 200 pounds in the previous decade, while 28 percent in 2010 to 2019 said so. Furthermore, the average self-reported weight of Americans has also risen slightly—from 174 pounds in the previous decade to 178 in the present one.

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A 17-year-old girl stands on a scale during her weekly weigh-in at the Wellspring Academy October 21, 2009 in Reedley, California. From 2001 to 2009, 12 percent of women said they weighed over 200 pounds. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Coupled with the fact that its respondents on average reported weighing more, one of the survey's most striking findings might be that fewer Americans said that they cared about losing weight. Fifty-four percent of all Americans (47 percent of men and 60 percent of women) in the 2010s said they wanted to lose weight, down from 59 percent (52 percent of men and 65 percent of women) between 2000 and 2009.

As Americans have simultaneously gotten heavier and become less likely to be bothered by higher weights, the data Gallup gathered through the decade indicates that fewer Americans considered themselves to be "overweight" during the most recent decade than in the 2000s.

Even though their weights are higher on average, slightly more respondents said that their weight was "about right" in this decade compared with the past one—53 percent to 56 percent. While 41 percent of all respondents said that they were "very" or "somewhat" overweight in the previous decade, that number had dropped to 38 percent between 2010 and 2019.

Gallup's findings on Americans' rising ambivalence to being overweight appeared to directly contradict those of a study published on November 13 in the journal JAMA Network Open. That study, which involved 48,026 people between the ages of 40 and 64, indicated that the number of Americans trying to lose weight was on the rise. According to the study, in 1999 34.3 percent of the population said they were trying to actively lose weight, compared to 42.2 percent in 2016. Both studies found that Americans, generally, have gained weight.

So, what does this apparent increasing acceptance of heavier bodies, as reported by Gallup, mean for America's future? Some groups, such as the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which is devoted to normalizing fat bodies and ending the bullying of overweight and obese children, might welcome Gallup's findings as an indication that their campaign is working.

In its own write-up on the findings, Gallup took a more negative tone, asserting that the data demonstrated the failure of organized efforts in the 2010s to combat obesity, which it described as an "epidemic" responsible for 20 percent of deaths in the U.S. every year.

"The current efforts to address the issue have evidently not been sufficient, and a new approach is likely warranted to convince Americans of the need to curb their weight," according to Gallup.