Weight-control practices among U.S. adults, 2001-2002

Am J Prev Med. 2006 Jul;31(1):18-24. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2006.03.016. Epub 2006 May 19.


Background: Approximately $50 billion a year is spent by Americans on weight-loss products and services. Despite the high cost, few national studies have described specific weight-loss and weight-maintenance practices among U.S. adults. This analysis describes the use of specific practices by U.S. adults who tried to lose weight or tried only not to gain weight during the previous 12 months.

Methods: Data were analyzed from the 2001-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted on a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. This study focused on adults aged 20 years or older who were both interviewed and examined (n =5027).

Results: Fifty-one percent of U.S. adults tried to control their weight in the previous 12 months, including those who tried to lose weight (34% of men, 48% of women) and those who tried only not to gain weight (11% vs 10%, respectively). Among 2051 adults who tried to control their weight, the top four practices were the same: ate less food (65% among those who tried to lose weight, 52% among those who tried only not to gain weight); exercised (61% vs 46%, respectively); ate less fat (46% vs 42%); and switched to foods with lower calories (37% vs 36%). Less than one fourth combined caloric restriction with the higher levels of physical activity (300 or more minutes per week) recommended in the 2005 dietary guidelines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Conclusions: Although weight control is a common concern, most people who try do not use recommended combinations of caloric restriction and adequate levels of physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet*
  • Educational Status
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Smoking
  • United States
  • Weight Loss*