The Average Weight of Men and Women Since the 1970’s

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America’s overweight and obesity problem is undisputed but people are still not losing any weight. In fact, they are only getting heavier and heavier. Health experts often use the word “epidemic” because as of 2016, the latest year for which official data is available, almost 40% of adults in the United States were obese. This is almost double the figure for the 1988-1994 period, when just over 22% of adults were obese.

Being obese is not the only problem; being overweight is even more rampant, with about 71% of adults having either condition. This is up from 65% at the turn of the century.

The worst period seems to be the 1990’s, when the average weight of both men and women went up by a pound per year. This may not sound like a lot, but most of this added weight was fat. The combination of extra fat storage and muscle loss, that is inevitable as you age, leads to weight gain because you need muscle to burn calories. The lack of physical activity that is prevalent in across the country and poor diet — most Americans consume too much added sugar, unhealthy fat, and salt — contribute to the growing obesity problem.

On the bright side, sobering statistics and increased awareness of the damage popular drinks and foods and lack of exercise do to one’s body may have gotten through to people. Americans seem to have slowed weight gain down. Men accumulated just over a pound, on average, between 2006 and 2014, while women gained four pounds.

Body mass index (BMI), which measures body fat based on height and weight, is the standard doctors use to diagnose obesity or if a person is overweight. BMI, however, has limitations. It does not take into account how much of the weight is actually fat. A pound of fat and a pound of muscle weigh the same but have different volumes — fat takes up a lot more space. As a result, athletes who are very muscular may be described as obese and older people who have lost muscle, but not fat, may be described as normal weight.

People with a BMI under 18.5 are classified as underweight; those with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 are normal weight; those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are overweight; those with a BMI greater than 30 are obese; and those with a BMI of 40 or higher are morbidly obese.

Over the years, both men and women steadily got bigger, moving from the lower end of normal BMI to the end of the normal range — going from 25 in 1976 to almost 30 by 2014. Women, who had a lower BMI than men a few decades ago now have higher.

To determine the average weight of Americans and how it has changed since the 1970s, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Anthropometric Reference Data for Children and Adults from the National Center for Health Statistics’ reports, which are published every three years.

1976-1980

> Average weight of adult men: 172.2 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 144.2 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 25.3
> Average BMI of adult women: 25.0

1988-1994

> Average weight of adult men: 180.7 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 152.3 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 26.6
> Average BMI of adult women: 26.5

1999-2002

> Average weight of adult men: 190.4 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 163.3 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 27.8
> Average BMI of adult women: 28.2

2003-2006

> Average weight of adult men: 194.7 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 164.7 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 28.4
> Average BMI of adult women: 28.4

2007-2010

> Average weight of adult men: 195.5 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 166.2 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 28.6
> Average BMI of adult women: 28.7

2011-2014

> Average weight of adult men: 195.7 pounds
> Average weight of adult women: 168.5 pounds
> Average BMI of adult men: 28.7
> Average BMI of adult women: 29.2