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Am J Prev Med. 2004 Jun;26(5):402-6.

Attempting to lose weight: specific practices among U.S. adults.

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  • 1Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3724, USA. ezk0@cdc.gov



Americans spend over $33 billion annually on weight-loss products and services. Although weight-control methods are of considerable public health interest, few national data on weight-loss practices are available. This paper examines the prevalence of specific weight-loss practices among U.S. adults trying to lose weight.


Data from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey, which was conducted through face-to-face interviews of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (n =32,440), were analyzed in 2003.


Twenty-four percent of men and 38% of women were trying to lose weight. Attempting weight loss was less common among normal weight (body mass index [BMI]<25 kg/m(2)) people (6% men, 24% women) than overweight (BMI>/=25 to 30 kg/m(2)) people (28%, 49%) or obese (BMI>/=30 kg/m(2)) people (50%, 58%). Among those trying to lose weight, the most common strategies were eating fewer calories (58% men, 63% women); eating less fat (49%, 56%); and exercising more (54%, 52%). Less frequent strategies were skipping meals (11% men, 9% women); eating food supplements (5%, 6%); joining a weight-loss program (3%, 5%); taking diet pills (2%, 3%); taking water pills or diuretics (1%, 2%); or fasting for >/=24 hours (0.6%, 0.7%). Only one third of all those trying to lose weight reported eating fewer calories and exercising more.


Increased efforts are needed among all those trying to lose weight to promote effective strategies for weight loss, including the use of calorie reduction and increased physical activity.

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