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Original Contribution
October 13, 1999

Prevalence of Attempting Weight Loss and Strategies for Controlling Weight

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Divisions of Nutrition and Physical Activity (Drs Serdula, Mokdad, Galuska, and Mendlein), Diabetes Translation (Dr Williamson), and Adult and Community Health (Dr Heath), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.

JAMA. 1999;282(14):1353-1358. doi:10.1001/jama.282.14.1353

Context Overweight and obesity are increasing in the United States. Changes in diet and physical activity are important for weight control.

Objectives To examine the prevalence of attempting to lose or to maintain weight and to describe weight control strategies among US adults.

Design The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a random-digit telephone survey conducted in 1996 by state health departments.

Setting The 49 states (and the District of Columbia) that participated in the survey.

Participants Adults aged 18 years and older (N=107,804).

Main Outcome Measures Reported current weights and goal weights, prevalence of weight loss or maintenance attempts, and strategies used to control weight (eating fewer calories, eating less fat, or using physical activity) by population subgroup.

Results The prevalence of attempting to lose and maintain weight was 28.8% and 35.1% among men and 43.6% and 34.4% among women, respectively. Among those attempting to lose weight, a common strategy was to consume less fat but not fewer calories (34.9% of men and 40.0% of women); only 21.5% of men and 19.4% of women reported using the recommended combination of eating fewer calories and engaging in at least 150 minutes of leisure-time physical activity per week. Among men trying to lose weight, the median weight was 90.4 kg with a goal weight of 81.4 kg. Among women, the median weight was 70.3 kg with a goal weight of 59.0 kg.

Conclusions Weight loss and weight maintenance are common concerns for US men and women. Most persons trying to lose weight are not using the recommended combination of reducing calorie intake and engaging in leisure-time physical activity 150 minutes or more per week.