New statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that American women are heavier than they have ever been before.
Both men and women have gained weight over the last 50 years, with each gaining roughly 30 pounds, according to the CDC. But one statistic is jarring: the average American woman today weighs 166.2 pounds, or 18.5 percent more than in the 1960s and just a hair below the average American man’s weight of 166.3 pounds at that time. American men have risen from that number to 195.5 pounds today, an increase of 17.6 percent.
A small amount of this weight gain can be attributed to men and women becoming taller – men and women have both grown about an inch on average since the 1960s.
But the study concludes that the bulk of the weight gain is due to lifestyle changes. Americans are exercising less, choosing to eat unhealthier food and eating more of it. But why is this happening?
More than half Americans’ food budget is spent on restaurant foods or processed, easy-to-make meals, which are more likely to be calorie-heavy food choices, reported Vox. The average American’s caloric intake grew from 2,109 calories in 1970 to 2,568 calories in 2010, which is “the equivalent to an extra steak sandwich every day,” according to Pew Research.
Comparing these numbers against other nation’s citizens, average Americans are 33 pounds heavier than their French counterparts and 40 pounds heavier than someone from Japan. This is a stark difference, especially considering that these countries have highly developed economies with similar standards of living to the United States.
Americans are only surpassed in weight by the peoples of the developing Pacific Island nations of Tonga and Micronesia, according to a study by BMC Public Health.
The BMC study states that solving the obesity epidemic “may be critical to world food security and ecological sustainability.”
The CDC reports that more than one-third of American adults over the age of 20 are obese, and one-fifth of children between six and 19 fall into this category.