Gallup Poll Reveals Americans Reporting Increased Ideal Weight

Jan. 11, 2012
A poll of 1,012 American adults reveals self-reports of weight and average ideal weight have increased over the past 20 years.

It's January and most of us are about to begin another diet. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds obesity has increased significantly over the past 20 years, but a Gallup poll of 1,012 adults reveals that Americans' self-reports of their own weight and average ideal weight have also increased over the same period.

Men and women are adapting their ideal to their now higher actual weights, and, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as overweight has remained essentially unchanged over the past 20 years. While Americans are getting heavier, many may not recognize it or acknowledge it.

American men, on average, say they weigh 196 pounds and women say they weigh 160 pounds. Both figures are nearly 20 pounds higher than the average men and women reported in 1990. Men, on average, say their ideal weight is 181 pounds and women say 138 pounds.

Comparing the self-reports of actual and ideal weights, the average man weighs 15 pounds more than his ideal today, compared with 9 pounds in 1990. The average woman weighs 22 pounds more than her ideal today, compared with 13 pounds in 1990, the highest Gallup has measured to date. All told, 67 percent of Americans are over their ideal weight. Subtracting men's and women's average self-reported weight from their average ideal weight reveals that 64 percent of men and 68 percent of women are currently over their ideal weight.

The disconnect between the percentage who are over their ideal weight and the percentage who say they are overweight may come from Americans' own reluctance to describe themselves using such a term. Additionally, Gallup's data find roughly one in four Americans are between 1 and 10 pounds over their ideal weight, many of whom may be more inclined to view their weight as "about right" than as "overweight."