Here’s Why the Average American Is Fatter Than Ever

Despite the internet’s efforts to promote healthy living, obesity rates keep climbing. We’re not good at losing weight, and experts are trying to figure out why. The results of the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey in 2017 revealed over 30% of Americans 20 or older say they are obese. Here are the reasons these numbers have yet to improve over the decades.

Americans are giving up on diets — and not in a good way

A woman picks out fruit at a supermarket.

Americans are ditching the diet lifestyle. | Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

For years, the diet industry has collected billions from prospective dieters. Now fewer Americans are buying into the traditional diet mentality, says The New York Post. People are trading expert advice in favor of their own ideas about what eating healthy means — and it clearly isn’t working. Even though fewer Americans are purchasing plans from Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, we haven’t seemed to accept a collective alternative that actually works.

Still, we’re eating way too many ‘diet foods’

A person reads a nutrition label on a yogurt.

You might be eating the wrong kind of sugar. | Ryan McVay/Getty Images

Diet foods — not just diet drinks — aren’t making us any healthier. And they’re definitely not helping you lose weight. Low-fat foods, for example, aren’t any healthier than full-fat foods in most cases. In fact, foods like these probably lead to more weight gain than loss. Low-fat, sugar-free, gluten-free snack foods like crackers and trail mix are still snack foods. Too many people mistake these labels to mean foods are healthy, when they actually aren’t.

We’re using exercise as an excuse to eat whatever we want

Two friends cook and eat together in an apartment.

That spin class doesn’t justify that second helping of food. | SolisImages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Many people still think exercise is the most important weight loss strategy, even though it isn’t. Even worse, there’s a misconception that burning more calories means you can consume more food and still lose weight. That’s not how calories work. To actually lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories, eat better calories, and burn both muscle and fat. This requires doing the right workouts — which also often doesn’t happen.

We’re not doing the right workouts

A man does a push up at a gym.

Your gym routine might not be very effective. | DeanDrobot/iStock/Getty Images

Sorry to break it to you, but doing yoga every day isn’t a weight loss solution. Yoga is great for relaxation, flexibility, and even mood and socialization. But if you want to lose weight, you have to create a workout regimen that builds muscle and burns calories. The reason people sign up for gym memberships and never go to the gym may be because they don’t know what to do — and also aren’t embracing physical activities they actually enjoy.

We’re sitting too much

A teacher speaks with two parents at a school.

Your job might require you to sit all day. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty images

Weight gain isn’t just about what we’re eating or how much we’re exercising. Even if you work out regularly and eat nutritious food, you’re not doing yourself any favors planting your butt in a chair all day or on the couch cushions all evening. Research suggests we’re burning off less energy both at work and at home than we used to, which isn’t helping. The combination of increased processed food consumption and a more sedentary lifestyle proves a major contributor to our obesity “epidemic.”

You’re addicted to sugar, and you’re addicted to sugar, and so are you

A cup of coffee with whipped cream on top.

You need a sugar fix just to get started each morning. | MYDinga/iStock/Getty Images

Science has spent years blaming saturated fat for weight gain and obesity, when sugar might prove an even more dangerous enemy. Added sugars, like the ones you’ll find in most processed foods, replace nutritious foods, destroy your liver, and make you overeat. We don’t want to give up sugar, even though it’s literally forcing our bodies to hold onto excess fat. You can eat as many fruits and vegetables as you want, but if junk food is a regular staple in your diet, you’re more likely to become part of the obesity problem.

We’re all sleep deprived, and we know it

A tired businesswoman rests her head on her desk.

Your energy levels are dangerously low. | Poike/iStock/Getty Images

Approximately a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, says the CDC. Unfortunately, chronic sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for overweight and obesity. Not spending enough time snoozing can cause weight gain, partially for hormonal reasons. Exhaustion makes some people crave more food, increasing the likelihood they’ll overeat. Losing sleep to work, spend time with family and friends, or watch Netflix just isn’t worth the long-term health consequences.