January is not the biggest month for reducing

January 24, 2001|By Marilynn Marter | Marilynn Marter,KNIGHT RIDDER/ TRIBUNE

An estimated 42 million American adults will go on diets this month.

That's no surprise, you say. It's as much a tradition as those parties and holiday treats that helped put on the pounds we now want to lose.

What is surprising is that these 42 million (22 percent of us) are far fewer in number than the avowed dieters in other months or other years. There were 46 million post-holiday dieters in 1990.

As for the timing, according to the NPD Group's continuing survey of national eating habits and diet patterns, January has ranked last or next to last among months for dieting in eight of the past 10 years. The monthly average number of dieters over the past decade is 49 million.

But one group does diet more in January - 35- to 44-year-old men and women. (Nearly one-third of women aged 35 to 44 are watching their weight this month.)

These are the people who crowd gyms and diet centers trying to hold onto (or regain) the shape of their youth, said Harry Balzer, vice president of food-consulting services for the marketing group.

Six out of 10 people said they'd like to lose 20 pounds. That's up from five in 10 wishful thinkers 10 years ago.

For those of us who are overweight, there is some good news. Americans are becoming more tolerant of girth when they look in the mirror.

Whereas 15 years ago 56 percent of adults felt that being overweight was unattractive, now just 24 percent are critical. More respondents said those extra pounds don't look so bad anymore.

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