More Americans want to lose weight for the sake of their health rather than for appearance, according to a new study. This may be one of the few positive legacies of COVID, since prioritizing health is a way to be more motivated and consistent which helps dieters achieve long-term results, according to a new poll released by the Mayo Clinic Diet.

That's good news because lifestyle changes are the only known way to effectively keep off the weight once the dieter manages to lose it, studies have shown. So even if you, like most others, have gone on multiple diets in your lifetime, chances are you've gained the weight back once you "go off" the diet.

This study found that the typical dieter has tried to lose weight on a diet six or more times in their lifetime, and they are "constantly thinking about losing weight" yet finding it a challenge. Fad diets like keto don't work and can raise your risk of heart disease in the long run.

What Really Works For Weight Loss

What works for weight loss? Lifestyle changes are the best approach to lasting and sustainable weight loss, such as trying the Mayo Clinic Diet, or adopting a mostly plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts and seeds while avoiding animal products such as meat and dairy that are laden with saturated fat.

For a two-week plant-based diet with four recipes a day and expert tips, created by a plant-based RD, try The Beet's 2 Week Plant-Based Diet Plan and lose weight the healthy, sustainable way.

The insights are part of the key findings of a comprehensive “Diet Mindset Assessment” study that asked a large swath of the public: Why are you trying to lose weight? The Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Center partnered with Digital Wellness to conduct the survey.

The doctors and researchers at Mayo also report back on what actually works for long-term sustainable weight loss, and it is a motivation that is sustainable, not just to look hot in a new dress, in contrast to the diet that Kim Kardashian used to lose 16 pounds to fit into the dress Marylin Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy.

Americans Want to Lose Weight for Health

When it comes to dieting, health is now a key motivator: 83 percent of respondents said they valued health above all other aspirations. For most Americans, weight is a health issue. With over one-third of Americans living with obesity (defined as a BMI of over 30 percent) and another third being clinically overweight, many consumers have been told by their doctors that in order to be their healthiest, losing weight is a priority.

For the other percentage of dieters, trimming down or losing more than a small amount of weight can be motivated by health and fitness goals as well as appearance, the Mayo Clinic and Digital Health survey found.

Some main takeaways from the 200,000 person poll:

  • Americans are interested in losing weight for the right reasons and not for vanity or status
  • Respondents are overwhelmingly intrinsically motivated
  • The larger percentage of participants who stick with the program are women

Obesity Is A Major Health Concern in the U.S.

Obesity is a disease that is on the rise in the U.S. and makes someone more susceptible to other diseases such as certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The percentage of Americans that are obese has significantly increased in a generation.

Right now in America, over two-thirds of the adult population is considered dangerously overweight, with 36.9 percent of American adults age 20 and older being obese, which is twice as many as three decades ago. Approximately 15 percent of children and teens are overweight, three times as many as there were in the 1980s.

For an interactive chart of obesity by state, check out this story and find your state.

In a related health problem, some 88 million adults have what is called "pre-diabetes" which is a symptomless condition that makes it hard to lose weight, yet vital that we try for the sake of our health.

Global Trend of Health and Wellness Post-COVID

Health surpassed physical appearance as an aspiration by over five times for those surveyed, consistent with a separate finding that post-COVID, Americans are currently more intrinsically motivated to maintain a healthy weight. Previously those dieters might have been more motivated by "external" factors such as appearance and status.

Over 55 percent of participants in the survey had dieted at least six times during their lifetime, indicating that Americans are seeking a sustainable and sensible solution to healthy weight management.

“It’s rather a unique study because of its large scale and that it explores the psychology of a dieter’s mindset,” said Donald D. Hensrud, MD, MS, Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. “We wanted to learn more about the motivations and aspirations around weight loss, and if a stage of readiness or sense of identity played a role in a diet program's results.”

A Health Goal Is a Powerful Weight-Loss Motivator

Most of the dieters in the survey had a health goal as a motivator for losing weight.
Of the total of 209,269 people who answered the mindset questionnaire, the majority had a BMI that would be considered obese: The average BMI of people who completed the quiz was 32.3. Of the total, 30 percent were classified as overweight and 56 percent as obese.

Among the respondents, 40 percent had dieted one to 5 times in their lifetime and 22 percent had dieted 6 to 10 times. The vast majority (86 percent) were female. They aged between 31-70 years with an average age of 52 years.

What Works: A Lifestyle Change Rather Than Diet

“The study indicates that people are ready for a lifestyle change for good reasons: to improve their health. That’s good news,” said Hensrud. “It means a lifestyle changing diet, like the New Mayo Clinic Diet, will be a good fit for them and is likely to have positive results that will last a lifetime.”

A plant-based diet has been shown to be more effective than keto and other diets to achieve long-term, sustainable, healthy weight loss. Studies show that people who give up red meat and full-fat dairy and substitute animal-based proteins in favor of plant-based sources have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, and also a lower risk of dying from all causes.

For more on how to lose weight on a plant-based diet, visit The Beet's Diet & Weightloss stories and try the 2 Week Plant-Based Diet Plan with 4 recipes and expert tips a day.

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