Objectives: To describe the characteristics and weight-loss methods of persons who are trying to lose weight; to compare the knowledges and practices regarding weight loss between those persons trying to lose weight and those not trying to lose weight; and to evaluate trends in these knowledges and practices between 1985 and 1990.
Design: Large (approximately 120 000 persons per year), nationally representative random sample of the U.S. population.
Setting: The 1985 and 1990 Health Promotion Disease Prevention Current Health Topics Supplements to the National Health Interview Survey.
Participants: Random sample of the U.S. population.
Measurements: Proportions of the NHIS sample with characteristics of interest weighted to be representative of the U.S. population.
Results: Approximately 44 million persons 25 years or older were trying to lose weight in 1990; 61.8% of men and 59.6% of women were doing so by increasing their physical activity. Both proportions are significantly increased compared to the 1985 proportions of 56.9% and 56.2%, respectively. Twenty-seven percent of those persons who saw themselves as overweight were not trying to lose weight.
Conclusions: More than one third of Americans see themselves as overweight, but fewer than two thirds of these persons are trying to lose weight. About 4% of self-perceived underweight persons and 11.4% of persons who think their weight was about right are also trying to lose weight. Most persons who are trying to lose weight are doing so by eating less, by increasing their physical activity, or by a combination of these methods.