How has the Average Weight for Women in the US changed over time?
I’m sure you’ve heard this over and over again, but American women are slowly but surely gaining weight! We often laugh it off or just push it aside, but this has a massive impact on our physical - and mental health.
Increased body weight also increases your risk for developing conditions such as; asthma, arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart attacks.
Research indicates conflicting evidence of the exact weight increase observed among women in the past few decades, but one evident thing, is that women are gaining weight. In 2018, the CDC published a National Health Statistics Report, in which they underlined that between 1960 and 2002, both men and women have gained at least 24 pounds.
The average woman has gained at least 6.8 pounds from 1999–2000 to 2015–2016, going from 163.8 lb to 170.6 lb. Waist circumference has increased from 36.3 inches to 38.6 during this time, while the average age-adjusted BMI for women also increased from 28.2 during 1999-2000 to 29.6 during 2015-2016.
This may not seem like anything major, but it remains significant as it severely increases the average woman’s risk for developing weight-related health issues.
What has caused the average weight in women to change over time?
Experts suggest that this trend may be due to society’s lifestyle habits. We are moving less, eating less healthy food, and replacing it with fast-food and calorie-dense food. The cost of low calorie-dense food such as fresh produce has also increased in the past few decades when compared to high calorie-dense food.
Nowadays, it’s more affordable to buy a burger and fries from some fast-food restaurant than cooking an organic, healthy, and balanced meal at home.
How does women's age influence the average weight?
In general, women tend to gain weight until entering their 60’s, whereafter they start to lose weight. The weight gain is observed to be influenced by behavioral factors such as eating habits, being less active, and hormonal changes. Once women reach their 60’s they generally start to lose weight as their muscles are replaced by fat tissue, and fat tissue weighs less than muscle tissue. The average weight of American women according to age is illustrated in the table below:
40 - 59
60 and older
What about the average women's clothing size?
In the past, the average clothing size for women was a size 14. However, the clothing industry didn’t really pay attention as most fashion labels still produced sizes up to 12, but this is a topic for another day...
Even though we are all different and come in different shapes, sizes, and curves, recent studies indicate that the average clothing size has also increased to a size 16 to 18. This is directly related to the increase observed in waist circumference and weight gain.
What is a healthy weight for women?
Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your physical and mental well-being. Healthcare professionals normally use weight and BMI to determine the risk of developing weight-related conditions and encourage individuals to aim towards the normal or healthy BMI range, 18.5 - 24.9.
Even though these measurements guide us to maintain a healthy BMI range, it’s still important to remember that ‘healthy’ looks different on everybody. It’s extremely difficult to establish the ideal weight’ and our bodies are different and have different needs to function at its best. Your ideal weight is the weight range in which your body functions at its best.
In one of our previous articles, we discussed some of the downfalls of BMI as a weight measurement tool, because it doesn’t distinguish between fat distribution and body frame size. So make sure to see the alternative ways to measure your risk by reading the article.
How can females lose weight and maintain a healthy weight?
Many factors influence your ability to lose weight and today we’ll discuss the most important ones.
Better Eating Habits
One of the main causes of weight gain for females is unhealthy eating habits. We have become so reliant on processed food because it’s so easy and convenient. Our hunter-gatherer brains also crave calorie-dense food more because it activates our survival instincts and releases endorphins. Changing your eating habits should be one of, if not the first, things you change when trying to lose weight.
Try to swap calorie-dense for nutrient-dense food. Nutrient-dense food is food groups that contain lots of vitamins and minerals to fuel your body to function optimally. Nutrient-dense foods are ‘whole foods’, and closest to their natural form. The golden rule is, if you cannot pronounce most of the ingredients on the nutrition label, skip or throw it away!
Many experts suggest you clean out your pantry and fridge from processed food and replace it with high-fiber and nutrition-dense food groups such as fresh fruit and vegetable, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein.
Remember, switching to whole-foods from fast food can be difficult at first and you’ll have to go through the transition period. Your body will crave the calorie-dense food and your taste-buds will have to adapt again.
Stick through it and you’ll start experiencing the amazing benefits of healthy eating habits.
Regular exercise is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy weight, burning calories, and positively changing your metabolism. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes; brisk walking, using an elliptical trainer, cycling at an easy pace, swimming comfortably, water aerobics, dancing, gardening, or doing general household chores. You can easily measure the intensity by using the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (or RPE). Aim to maintain an RPE of between 11 to 14, which refers to ‘light exertion to somewhat hard’ exertion.
High-intensity exercise includes; high-intensity interval training, running, rope skipping, Tabata, cross-country skiing, or sprints. Similar to moderate-intensity exercise, you can also measure high-intensity and aim to reach an RPE of 15 to 19 or aim for 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.
- Your maximum heart rate is 220 - (your age)
220 - (24 years old) = 196;
80% - 90% of 196 = 156 - 176 bpm.
Besides exercise, you can also move your body more often, by making physical activity part of your regular day. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk while you talk on your phone, take active breaks during office hours, walk your dog, or do some housework.
Drink More Water
Water helps enhance your metabolism, cleanse your body of waste, keep you fuller for longer, and prevents water retention. The recommended water intake per day is 2.7 liters (91,3 fluid ounces) for women.
Some easy tips to drink more water include drinking a glass as soon as you wake up in the morning, before and after a meal, during a workout, and try to carry a bottle with you during the day. Scientists also suggest drinking cold water to boost your metabolism.
Other health benefits of drinking more water include eliminating toxins, nourishing joints, maintaining healthy body temperature, and enhancing your immune system.
Skip the Sugary Sodas
Did you know that about half of the population drinks sugary drinks on a daily basis in the US? And 40% of individuals consume about 200 calories from these drinks. This may not sound like much, but it adds up!
Sodas and other sugary drinks are packed with added sugar and calories. Consuming calories in its liquid-form won’t keep you satisfied and chances are, you’ll just end up consuming even more calories by eating more.
Besides looking after your weight, cutting down on sugary drinks and soda will also improve your dental health, sleeping habits, and energy levels, as well as reduce your risk for developing health issues such as obesity, types 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and anxiety.
When eating in front of the TV or while you’re on your phone, you will probably not even realize when you’re satisfied and you’ll end up eating a lot more! You won’t be able to notice your bodily cues. Mindful eating habits and eating without distractions will help you to improve your self-control and maintain a healthy weight. Try to start focussing on the colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors.
Improve your sleeping habits
A study conducted in 2008 proved that sleep deprivation increases children’s risk of developing obesity by 89%, and 55% in adults. This direct link between weight gain and sleep deprivation emphasizes the importance of sleep, so let’s get sleeping!
Sleep deprivation negatively impacts the hormones regulating your hunger senses, which will eventually increase your appetite as well. It also reduces metabolism, your ability to make logical decisions, and reduces your self-control to stay on track.
Besides weight management, sleep also prevents health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Choose home-cooked over take-out meals
Take-out meals are often much bigger portion sizes and contain a lot more calories than normal home-cooked meals! And they often also add more salt and sugar to the meals and sauces. When you make homemade meals, you know exactly what goes into your meal and therefore have more control of what you put into your body. This gives you so much more control over your nutrition and health!
Seek support or professional help
If you’ve tried most of the tips mentioned above and nothing has worked, seek out professional help, from your physician or dietician. Certain underlying conditions may impact your ability to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, so it might be a good idea to just get it checked out by a healthcare professional.
Even though there are many guidelines to what a healthy weight is, such as BMI, it’s still important to realize that healthy looks different on everyone. Some of us are naturally more curvy and others genuinely struggle to gain weight. It all comes down to looking after your body so that it will function properly and thrive! It’s crucial to look after your body, honor it, and give it all the love it deserves... because you only get one.