As Americans have gained extra pounds in recent decades, Mary A. Burke, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who studies social norms, says they seem to have adjusted to a new normal regarding weight. A study she and co-authors published in 2010 revealed that a growing proportion of overweight adults — 21 percent of women and 46 percent of men (up from 14 percent and 41 percent, respectively, in the 1990
Look around you and chances are you’ll see that more than two adults in three are overweight or obese. Perhaps you are among them and you’re thinking, “That’s O.K. I’m no different from anyone else, so what’s the point in waging yet another losing battle against the bulge?”
Even doctors may be tempted to give up trying to convince their overweight patients to lose weight. Although Medicare now covers up to 20 visits for weight loss counseling each year, few doctors (or perhaps I should say few patients) have taken advantage of this benefit. Yet only a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in weight can often result in a significant improvement in health risks like high blood pressure, blood sugar or serum cholesterol levels. In other words, you don’t have to become model-thin to improve your health and life expectancy.
The average weight of American adults and children was fairly stable until 1980. Then began a frightening rise that has only recently shown some signs of leveling off. There are many reasons, among them the growing employment of women outside the home contributing to a decline in home cooking; greater reliance on packaged and processed foods; the rise of fast foods, takeout and restaurant meals; and a commensurate decline in physical activity. A result: more calories in and fewer out, a perfect formula for weight gain.