CHICAGO — An overwhelming majority of Americans are embarrassed by the nation's obesity epidemic, according to the Every Body Needs Something Survey recently released by Bally Total Fitness. The survey found that more than 97 percent of Americans are aware that the United States is the world's fattest nation. More than 64 percent said it is embarrassing to them personally and for the country.

“Sugar-coating the problem isn't the answer — Americans need real information and real solutions to this epidemic,” said Paul Toback, chairman and CEO of Bally Total Fitness. “The good news is that few respondents believe that laziness or lack of motivation is the problem. In fact, more than 75 percent cite a need for comprehensive diet and fitness information offered in an easy-to-access, one-stop-shop environment.”

The survey also suggests that the scope of the problem may exceed even the most recent estimates that 64 percent of Americans are overweight and 30 percent are obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more, according to the Centers for Disease Control standard. More than 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that they are overweight, of which more than 55 percent felt a need to lose more than 20 pounds, and 21 percent stated a need to lose more than 40 pounds. While the majority of Americans — nearly 70 percent — were angry or embarrassed about the scope of America's weight problem, the Every Body Needs Something Survey revealed a high level of conflict and contradiction between feelings and actions, according to the company. For example:

  • More than 97 percent of survey respondents who felt they were unfit or overweight want to lose weight, yet only 25 percent are following a diet program.

  • Aerobic exercise, personal training and weight training — all readily available at most gyms — were cited by survey participants as the top three needs for their bodies. However, only 20 percent are members.

  • Indeed, more than 83 percent of all adults claim to want complete nutritional information on menus but only 39 percent profess that the information would influence their food choices.

“Fad diets only add to the confusion and contribute to the yo-yo syndrome so many of us experience. Our personal trainers are amazed at how many of our members are afraid of carbs or refuse to eat carrots because they are high in sugar,” said Toback. “Let's face it, none of us are overweight from eating too many carrots. Simply put, extreme diets do not work long-term. What works is a moderate approach to eating, coupled with exercise. This is the only sustainable weight loss regiment. It always has been and always will be.”

The nationally projectable survey, conducted in December 2003, polled a random sample of Americans aged 18 and older. The Every Body Needs Something Survey is the first in a regular series of surveys to be conducted by Bally Total Fitness to evaluate the needs of Americans in their efforts to become healthier and fit. Bally Total Fitness will use the results of these surveys to develop the products and services necessary to get America back on the path to good health.