Despite a push in recent years toward a more body-positive cultural mindset, a new study found Americans are still increasingly pursuing weight loss, and to little avail.
The study published this week in JAMA Network Open, found that while more US adults than ever before are attempting to lose weight, the nation continues to see overall increases in weight and BMI. The cross-sectional study examined trends in weight-loss attempts and strategies among 48 ,026 US adults between 1999 and 2016. The study ultimately found an increase in weight-loss attempts and strategies, despite a corresponding increase in weight.
The reported weight-loss methods included fairly standard tactics such as eating less, calorie restriction and exercise, as well as potentially more drastic strategies like skipped meals and laxatives. In examining these trends over the years, the study painted an interesting picture of cultural shifts that have taken place in recent decades when it comes to diet and weight-loss behaviors.
While nearly every method saw an increase in use from the first year of the study to the last, perhaps none is more significant than the leap in dieters attempting to lose weight by “drinking more water.” While only seven people reported drinking water for weight loss in 1999–2000, 1,370 said they tried the method in 2015–2016, which, as Vice’s Hannah Smothers pointed out, may reflect the influence of the catchall celebrity wellness advice to “drink more water.”
While the study didn’t provide much explanation for the results it observed, researchers suggested people may be over-reporting their attempts to lose weight. Whether or not the reported increase in attempted weight loss is reflective of actual weight-loss efforts playing out across the country, the results reflect a nation increasingly stressed about body size — despite recent cultural attempts to instill a more body-inclusive mindset.
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