What, Me Fat? Most Americans Don't Think They're Overweight, Poll Finds

obesity, disease, health, illness
(Image credit: bikeriderlondon, Shutterstock)

Although the obesity rate is increasing in the United States, Americans seem to be in denial about their own expanding waistlines.

More than half of adults (55 percent) said they don't think they are overweight and aren't making an effort to shed pounds, according to a new Gallup poll. In contrast, recent studies have shown that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

When the researchers considered the genders separately, they found that although men are more likely to be overweight than women, 60 percent of men reported that they were neither overweight nor trying to lose weight, compared with 50 percent of women who said the same.  [7 Little-Known Tricks That Shave Pounds]

"These data highlight the importance of perception in the battle to fight obesity in the U.S.," Gallup officials said. "This discrepancy may suggest that addressing the obesity crisis in America must first start by convincing overweight Americans that they are indeed overweight."

A recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle found that two-thirds of Americans (an estimated 160 million people) are overweight or obese. That finding is consistent with another recent Gallup poll, which found that 35.3 percent of Americans were overweight and 27.7 percent were obese — a new high — after calculating the survey participants' body mass index (BMI) based on their self-reported heights and weights.

In the new poll, only about 36 percent of those surveyed described themselves as overweight. Among those people, 18 percent said they were trying to lose weight and another 18 percent said they were not.

Gallup found that 21 percent of women said they were overweight and trying to lose weight, compared with 15 percent of men who said the same. Meanwhile, 10 percent of women said they were trying to lose weight even though they didn't consider themselves overweight, compared with 6 percent of men who said the same.

Younger adults tended to be more content with their weights. Among those ages 18 to 34, Gallup found that 68 percent reported that they were neither overweight nor trying to lose weight, compared with 47 percent of adults 55 and older who said the same.

Obesity — which is often linked to other health complications like type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure — was recently recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association.

The new results were taken from phone interviews with a random sample of 3,066 adults, ages 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, as part of Gallup's Health and Healthcare surveys from 2011 through 2013.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and Space.com since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.