Poll: Americans Hope to Shed Pounds in New Year

One item on the agendas of millions of Americans in the new year is losing weight -- and many are actively trying. But the impediments are many -- hectic schedules, lack of exercise, too much stress, too little willpower, and good old-fashioned food cravings.

Forty-five percent of adults -- just under 100 million people in this country -- say they'd like to shed a few pounds, and losing weight and exercising more are among this year's most frequently mentioned New Year's resolutions, this ABC News/America Online poll finds.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Among people who'd like to lose weight, three in 10 are seriously trying to do so. That's around 30 million people -- plenty enough to keep the treadmills turning. But it means many millions more want to shed pounds, yet aren't taking the steps to make it happen.

Why the gap? Finding the time, doing the exercise and having the sheer willpower it takes to slim down are the three big obstacles. Among people who'd like to lose weight, about a quarter cite each of these as the hardest thing about losing weight.

Weight Loss
  Percent
Would like to ...    
Lose weight   45%
Maintain weight   48
Gain weight   6
If want to lose weight, seriously trying?    
    Yes   30
    No   70

Motivation can address those, as well as the next item on the list -- taking the trouble to count calories, which about one in 10 calls that the toughest task in losing weight.

Almost as many, though, cite an economic rather than motivational problem -- the higher cost of healthful food. That concern, naturally, peaks (at 16 percent) among low-income Americans.

Hardest Part About Losing Weight
(asked of those who'd like to lose weight)
  Percent
Time   27%
Exercise   25
Willpower   24
Counting calories   11
Buying healthful food   8
Knowledge   3

Still, diet and exercise clearly are the biggest culprits: Among overweight Americans, nearly six in 10 point to one of these as the main reason they're heavy (32 percent say it's lack of exercise and 27 percent cite problems with their diet). Similarly, when asked the main cause of obesity in general, 75 percent of Americans cite either poor eating habits or lack of exercise.

This survey was conducted to support special month-long coverage of weight loss issues on ABC's "Good Morning America," in partnership with AOL.

The Sexes

Women are more likely than men to want to lose weight, 55 percent versus 36 percent -- but they're no more likely to be actively trying to do so. When it comes to causes, overweight men and women are about equally likely to blame lack of exercise, but more men than women (by nine points) blame diet, while more women than men (by 10 points) cite stress.

Gender Differences
  All Men Women
Want to lose weight   45%   55%   36%
If want to lose weight, seriously trying   30   30   31
Main reason for being overweight            
    Exercise   32   31   34
    Diet   27   23   32
    Stress   14   18   8

Comfort Food

Food cravings are nearly endemic: Nearly everyone can name some fattening food indulgence that they crave.

Chocolate takes the cake: Twenty percent of Americans call it their top food indulgence, and that's particularly true among women -- 27 percent of women crave chocolate, compared with 12 percent of men. Men, instead, are much more apt than women to cite -- you guessed it -- red meat.

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