My fellow Americans, we have some really big news.

We'll cut to the chase. A new government study says Americans are getting bigger and fatter -- only slightly shorter at the same time.

"Mean (or average) weight, waist circumference, and BMI in adults 20 years and older increased between 1999-2000 and 2015-2016," Cynthia Ogden, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, told CNN after the report was released.

Actually, the trend goes back another 40 years.

In 1960, for example, average weight of an American man was 166 pounds, according to a previous CDC report (opens as .pdf). By 2002, it had increased to 190. 

During that same time period, average height increased by a single inch for men, from about 5 feet 8 inches on average to about 5 feet 9 inches.

Add another 14 years, bringing us to 2016, and average height stayed the same (or maybe even dropped a fraction of an inch), while weights jumped another 8.5 pounds on average for men-- up to 197.9 pounds, according to the newer CDC report (.pdf).

The numbers weren't much better for women, for whom weights on average rose from 163.8 pounds in 2000 to 170.6 pounds two years ago.

Put differently, we're getting wider, but not taller. 

Other stats: 

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) rose from 27.8 to 29.1 for men since 2000, and from 28.2 to 29.6 for women. A normal or healthy BMI is supposed to be between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • As for waist circumference, more bad news.  The average American man's waist expanded from 39 inches to 40.2 inches over the past 14 years.
  • For women the average jumped from 36.3 inches to 38.6 inches.

The explanations? Nothing you haven't heard before. Our diets are getting worse, we're working longer hours, and while the idea of exercise is much more of a goal now than it was in the early 1960s, a huge number of us just find the time for it.

About the only good news in the study is that there were a few demographic cohorts that that bucked the trend and didn't gain a lot of weight during those periods: Asian men and women for example, along with Mexican-American women, and Black men.

Everyone else got fat. White men like me are at the top of the list. 

Which means, it's a new year, and time for new resolutions. Either start a company that will help people lose weight, or else I'll see you at the gym.

Published on: Dec 30, 2018
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