How much bigger Americans are in two generations


Average American Size 2015
  Men Women
Height 69.2 inches (175.8 cm) 63.7 inches (161.8 cm)
Weight 195.7 lbs (88.8 kg) 168.5 lbs (76.4 kg)
Waist 40 inches (101.5 cm) 38.1 (96.9 cm)
Average American Size 1960
  Men Women
Height 68 inches (173 cm) 63 inches (160 cm)
Weight 166.3 lbs (75.3 kg) 140 lbs (63.5 kg)

The film WALL-E came out in 2008, and at this point it seems already quaint. Remember, when WALL-E was in theaters smartphones were not ubiquitous. Today it is not abnormal for people in social situations to always have one eye on their phone, or for people to text each other in close proximity.

Another aspect of WALL-E is that it depicted future humans as obese unitard wearing consumers. If such a film came out in 2017 I do wonder if it would be accused of being fatphobic and fat-shaming. WALL-E‘s general critique of post-industrial gluttony seems to be spot on.

Some of this is on my mind because I’ve gained 5-10 pounds over the past year due to new jobs and a move. As some of you know I’ve been trying out the ketogenic diet. In just a few weeks I’ve shed enough water weight to make a difference.

I would recommend it to someone trying to kickstart a change in their lifestyle for a simple reason: it does take care of the satiety aspect. If you work long hours it reduces the urge to snack on something. But if you are a social eater it will be difficult for it to be sustainable. I’m going to go off the diet for SMBE.

After joining a gym recently I got a full body analysis of my fitness level. At 5’8 and at 165 pounds I feel rather large for me. My body fat percentage was estimate at around 17%, which sounds right (I fluctuate between 14 and 18 depending on my fitness level). Recently my waist has gone up to 31 inches from 29 or 30. But I was surprised that my percentiles were not that bad.

That’s because the average American man is rather overweight.

Look at the statistics above. You probably know this, but let’s reiterate: the average American woman in 2015 is heavier than the average American man in 1960.

12 thoughts on “How much bigger Americans are in two generations

  1. Razib: I have sad news for you. The older you get the harder it is. Adjust your expectations and focus on being grateful for the multitude of good things that have happened to you. You will never be 25 again.

  2. Age is a major factor. Any older population will be more obese if not living close to starvation. That’s nothing new and became just more pronounced due to the American way of life.

    Also, are there statistics which distinguish different ethnicies? I suspect Mexican Americans making the average significantly shorter and more obese.

  3. Lift weights. The reason exercise gets such a bad rap, justifiably, as a weight loss measure is that people are trying to burn more calories aerobically than they take in, which just doesn’t work – you just get more hungry. Lifting weights, on the other hand, alters your musculature so you look better even if you carry a little extra weight. And then yeah, diet is everything, but it’s easier if you’re regularly going into anaerobic situations where you’re compelling your metabolism to speed up, rather than to slow down as when running. And it’s much easier to maintain muscle mass than to maintain running shape.

  4. Also, are there statistics which distinguish different ethnicies? I suspect Mexican Americans making the average significantly shorter and more obese.

    why don’t you look it up (yes, there are; it has an effect, but since they are a minority and younger on average not as much you would think perhaps). if you can care to air a suspicion, look it up.

  5. The average man really has a 40 inch waist? I wonder why I don’t see more 40-size range pants at Target and Kohl’s. I guess you learn something everyday (and maybe they’re fudging the pant sizes).

  6. I guess you learn something everyday (and maybe they’re fudging the pant sizes).

    some of this. also, men with 35+ waists tend to have bellies that overhang. so they buy pants which they wear low (there are articles on this pattern).

  7. Converting to BMI:
    Men (2015) 28.7
    Men (1960) 25.3
    Women (2015) 29.2
    Women (1960) 24.8

    For a man 6’1″ (like me) this would be 217 lbs. in 2015 and 191 lbs. in 1960, which illustrates that a somewhat larger than intuition would expect share of the weight gain is due to a slight increase in height, although the BMI gain is still very significant.

  8. Average American Size 1960

    GIs in World War II were even shorter and lighter (these were men who came of age during the Depression). Yet they could carry heavier loads and march longer than the present generation of American men. And – get this – American soldiers in World War II had a reputation for being poor at marching on their feet, allegedly because the U.S. was the most automobile-dependent culture in the world and the even smaller yet European*/Japanese soldiers were far less dependent on mechanized transport.

    *German soldiers in the Afrika Korps fighting under Rommel were often astounded by the size of Australian soldiers.

    In other words, Americans have become bigger and fatter and much functionally (and likely mentally) weaker on average. And that’s probably the case in most of the Western world and perhaps most of the rest of the world as well.

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