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Most Americans are happily overweight, report finds

obese skinny women

 (iStock)

As Americans carefully avoid counting the calories they consumed over Thanksgiving, a new Gallup poll has found that as our waistlines increase, so does our perceptions of our ideal weight.

ANALYSIS: Americans Want To Diet -- but Don't

Men's average ideal weight is up 14 pounds since Gallup first measured it in 1990, and their average actual weight is up 16 pounds. Women's average ideal weight is up 11 pounds since 1990, and their average actual weight is up 14 pounds. Basically, over the past two decades people have consistently said they wanted to lose about 10 to 15 pounds off their current weight to achieve their ideal weight.

The poll found that about one-third of men say they are at or below their ideal weight, and about one-quarter of women say they are at or below their ideal weight. The idea that most Americans (and especially women) are in a constant struggle to lose weight is a myth: Only one-quarter of respondents say they are seriously trying to lose weight, which as Gallup notes "is much lower than the percentage who are above their ideal weight or say they would like to lose weight."

ANALYSIS: 40 Percent of Overweight Women Don't Know It

Why aren't more people trying to lose weight? The answer is simple: because -- despite two-thirds of Americans being overweight or obese -- "The majority of Americans say their weight is 'about right,' as they have typically responded over the past 20 years. But the 60 percent who describe themselves as 'about right' is the highest Gallup has ever found." 

The Gallup report referred to this paradox as "weight denial." Most of us know we should lose some weight (and we would like to do it if it's quick and easy), but at the end of the day we figure we're fine as we are.

It's important to note that the subjects' weight in this study were self-reported, and not verified by a doctor or scale. This may be a problem because people often lie about their weight, or simply don't know it. According to a 2010 research study, nearly 40 percent of overweight women believe themselves to be thinner than they really are. That study also found that, contrary to most women thinking they are too fat, only 16 percent of normal-weight women in the study perceived themselves as overweight.

ANALYSIS: Overweight Doctors Less Likely to Diagnose Obesity

The simple fact is that most Americans are fat and happy: not really trying to lose weight, and not really worried about not trying to lose weight.