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Stepping on the scale frequently and regularly has been shown to be an effective way to lose pounds and keep them off.

The average American gains weight during every decade of his or her life – especially during the early and middle adult years. These consistent gains push more than 40% of us into the obese category by the time we reach our fifties, according to a recent analysis from scientists at Brigham Young University in Utah. 

They used long-term data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to track the weight gain patterns of nearly 14,000 randomly chosen adults. 

They found that more than half of those adults gained 5% or more body weight over a 10-year period. Of even greater concern, they said, more than a third gained 10% or more body weight and almost one-fifth gained 20% or more.

“The U.S. obesity epidemic is not slowing down,” said study lead author Larry Tucker, a BYU professor of exercise science. “Without question, 10-year weight gain is a serious problem within the U.S. adult population.”

According to the data, on average Americans gain:

• 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s

• 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s

• 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s

• 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s

Adults who gain the average amount of weight during each decade of their lives will end up packing on more than 45 pounds, pushing many into the obese category. 

The NHANES data also showed that 10-year weight gain was significantly higher in women than in men, with women gaining about 12 pounds on average compared to 6 pounds for men. Weight gain also differed across races, with Black women experiencing the greatest average weight gain over the 10-year period (19.4 pounds) and Asian men experiencing the least (2.9 pounds).

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC, 42.4% of U.S. adults are currently obese, up from 30.5% in 2000.

Lisa Russell covers health and aging for both West Newsmagazine and Mid Rivers Newsmagazine. She is a West St. Louis County native [Parkway South, class of 1979] and graduate of Mizzou’s journalism school. She and her husband have three grown children.