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January 19, 2016
by Anne Kip Watson

Eating Disorders & Weight Loss Goals: The Shocking Statistics & Simple Answers

January 19, 2016 15:55 by Anne Kip Watson

“We have to admit what we are doing is not working.” That comment comes from Emmett Bishop, MD, a specialist who has been treating and working in the eating disorder field for over 25 years (Bishop, 2012).

He speaks truth as the statistics regarding eating disorders and obesity have not changed and in most areas have increased since mid-1970’s.

The Numbers

Ten million Americans, men and women, struggle with eating disorders and millions more struggle with binge eating and other unspecified eating disorders (Eating Recovery Center, 2016). Of those, 5-25 percent with Anorexia Nervosa will die as a direct result of their struggle.  Near 20 percent of college-aged women are bulimic and 35 percent of the US population is obese.

Other disturbing statistics indicate a severe and growing problem among the youth and men in America (Eating Recovery Center, 2016).

  • 90 percent of young women who develop an eating disorder do so between the ages of 12 and 25
  • Approximately 9 percent of anorexia nervosa sufferers are boys and men
  • Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2 percent of adolescent and young adult women
  • One out of five men would trade three to five years of their lives to achieve their weight goals
  • 40 percent of those struggling with binge eating are male

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, not one state in the U.S. has a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Nineteen of these states have a prevalence of 30 percent or more, seven more states than reported just three years ago in 2011. And, for the first time, three states now report having an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or more (Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia).

Perhaps just as alarming are the statistics on what Americas spend every year on the ‘diet’ industry (Averkamp, 2015).

  • $21.15 billion on diet soft drinks
  • $19.5 billion on health clubs, gym memberships, equipment
  • $5.77 billion on bariatric surgery
  • $8.25 billion on weight loss medical plans, diet drugs, hospital and physical plans
  • $3.29 billion on commercial weight loss centers
  • $2.69 billion on meal replacement and diet pills
  • $2.52 billion on artificial sweeteners
  • $2.32 billion on low calories/diet foods
  • $1.21 billion on diet books, exercise videos

What Will It Take to End This Trend?

All the money spent ‘dieting’ and on diet products, gym memberships, equipment and programs has not reversed the trend of America being over-fat and obese. In fact, if this nation continues this trajectory, then everyone will be overweight or obese in a few generations.

And if the trend holds true, most people who set New Year’s Resolutions and goals to lose weight will never achieve their desired outcome.  In fact, 90-95 percent of the roughly 50 percent of Americans who do choose to diet gain their weight back within one to five years (Eating Recovery Center, 2016).

Brendon Burchard, a leading high performance life-coach, believes the number one reason people do not achieve their desired goals is because people are not willing to struggle (Burchard, 2016). He suggests people do not recognize the psychological challenge involved in accomplishing and maintaining weight loss. “Those that have a high willingness to struggle have a greater likelihood to achieve. When they bemoan the process of change, they put out a feeling and conditioning self to not do what is necessary,” says Burchard.

Suffering and Weight Loss Success

As a society, the paradigm shift towards instant gratification, making things easier and more convenient perhaps corresponds with this obesity epidemic. The way we do things in the United States has conditioned the American mind and body away from hard work, pain, and difficulty and towards popping pills to create happiness and the work of fat loss. Burchard contends a reconditioning needs to take place to view pain as worth it and cultivate happiness through choices in how you view a struggle.

A similar view is held by leading brain health expert and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen. After three decades of research and treatment on tens of thousands of people, Amen says the most common reason why people commit and then fail to achieve their goals corresponds to their ‘why’ not being strong enough to propel them through the hard work required. ‘We’d like you to tweak the resolution from, “lose ten pounds” to “be a WARRIOR for my brain and body so I can ROCK my mission in life!!”’, writes Amen in a recent blog post on his website. (Amen, 2016).

The term ‘WARRIOR’ certainly compels a different connotation. It suggests a fight and battle for victory. To condition the mind for such a battle includes suffering, struggle, and perhaps disappointments and letdowns before ultimate triumph!

Formula for Achievement

The bottom line when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off or recovering from disordered eating choices is no secret. It involves three components: fitness, a clean eating lifestyle, and psychological tools to do it.

Hard work, self-discipline, planning, pushing beyond a comfort zone, and being willing to fail are all a part of the struggle. Maintaining consistency in the small things daily over a period of time yields results. And, upholding steadfastness no matter what the date is on the calendar also leads to achieving goals. In other words, it’s no excuse to overindulge just because a birthday, a vacation, or a holiday is coming up. The first time you suffer and go without makes it easier the next time.


Amen, D. M. (2016, January). It's time for your New Year's Resolution to get health again! Retrieved from Amen Lifestyle:

Averkamp, S. (2015, January 7). Diet and weight loss statistics. Retrieved from Fitness for Weight Loss:

Bishop, E. M. (2012). Elisa Project Annual Eating Disorders Conference & Symposium . Dallas.

Burchard, B. (2016, January 1). Goal Setting. High Performance Academy. Santa Clara.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Obesity Prevalence Maps. Retrieved from

Eating Recovery Center. (2016, January 7). Media Resources. Retrieved from Eating Recovery Center:

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