From disrupted supply chains to disrupted friendships, the pandemic has created a host of unwanted effects, many of which continue to linger on today. One that hasn’t been as widely discussed is unintended weight gain. A CivicScience study from June 2021 found that nearly 40% of U.S. adults said they were at a heavier weight compared to before the pandemic. That was on top of reports from the CDC that the obesity rate had already reached a record high by March 2020.

The latest CivicScience data find that the majority of U.S. adults are dissatisfied with their current weight and are interested in losing pounds, ranging anywhere from a few to more than 50. However, a smaller percentage say they are actually pursuing weight loss right now.

CivicScience looked at weight loss today, including interest in key disruptors reshaping the industry: weight-loss apps (such as Noom) and the off-label use of prescription drugs (such as Ozempic and Wegovy). For additional insights, get in touch.

Weight Loss Goals and Sentiments 

How many Americans are trying to lose weight? When asked to best describe their experience with weight loss, 46% of U.S. adults say they are pursuing weight loss and 11% have done so and attained their desired weight. An additional 14% report they are not pursuing weight loss right now but would like to start.

Nearly 1-in-5 U.S. adults say they are ‘struggling’ to reach their weight-loss goals.

Weight-loss goals vary. When asked how much weight adults are aiming to lose, the data take the shape of a bell curve, with the most common answer at 10-25 pounds. Slightly more adults lean toward wanting to drop upwards of 25 pounds (38%) compared to those hoping to shed 10 or less (31%). 

However, things look different when broken down by gender. Women are much more likely than men to want to lose 25-50 pounds and 50 or more pounds.

A cause for concern? Of course, weight can be a major factor affecting a person’s health, self-perception, and overall well-being. Current data show 56% of U.S. adults say they are concerned about their weight. While 40% are ‘somewhat concerned’ about their weight, 16% say they are ‘very concerned’ (n=4,479). 

Concern over weight correlates with weight-loss experience and goals. Nearly half of those who are the most concerned about their weight say they are struggling to lose weight. These adults have the highest weight-loss goals in terms of pounds – 34% want to lose 25-50 pounds and 37% want to drop more than 50 pounds.

Weight-Loss Industry Trends

There is a clear demand for weight loss in the US. What are Americans doing to lose weight?

Exercise and fitness programs are key. Earlier this year, CivicScience data found that improving diet and fitness topped the list of New Year’s resolutions. New data show these goals shine when it comes to what consumers want out of the weight-loss market. Nearly half of U.S. adults looking to lose weight rank exercise and fitness programs or classes at the top of a list of weight-loss methods they’re most interested in trying – well above traditional diet/meal programs, professional dietitian or nutritionist counseling, elective surgeries, and new and emerging products, such as medications and apps.

But how likely is the entrance of type 2 diabetes medications into the market poised to disrupt the multi-billion dollar diet and weight-loss industry, which has long centered around dieting and exercise? Even though previous data show two-thirds of U.S. adults express a high approval of using drugs off-label, medications like Wegovy and Ozempic appeal to just 14% of Americans who want to lose weight. They are nearly as likely to be interested in using supplements and herbs or working with a dietitian or nutritionist. 

That said, interest in off-label drug use for weight loss varies based on weight goals and perceptions. They appeal the most to those who 1) want to lose more than 25 pounds, 2) say they are struggling to lose weight or intend to start losing weight, and 3) report feeling very concerned about their weight.

Women are also much more likely than men to consider using these drugs for weight loss (17% to 10%), which may appeal to the higher percentage of women who say they are struggling to reach their weight-loss goals.

A Closer Look at Apps vs. Traditional Diet Programs

Diet or meal programs, such as WeightWatchers and Nutrisystem, have been going strong for decades, but things have been shifting in recent years. The expected closing of company Jenny Craig may be seen as evidence of a diversifying market, as other companies like WeightWatchers move to embrace new weight-loss drugs and app technology.

The data above show just 1-in-5 adults are interested in these types of dieting or meal programs. Weight-loss apps, such as Noom and Lumen, may be undercutting these traditional programs, as nearly 1-in-5 adults also said they were interested in using these kinds of apps. In fact, 15% of U.S. adults have tried Noom, a subscription-based app that tracks food intake and exercise, and an additional 17% say they are interested in trying it (n=2,477 ). Young adults under age 35 show the greatest interest in apps for weight loss, three times that of adults 55 or older.

Of course, weight and weight loss is affected by many different factors and varies from person to person, yet we can see more nuanced trends emerge. Data show most adults are interested in combining different strategies to reach their goals. For example, 19% of people interested in weight-loss apps are also interested in using prescription drugs such as Wegovy. And people interested in using apps are more interested in exercise and fitness than those who use diet or meal programs, like WeightWatchers.

Finally, cost is an inhibitor for many when it comes to subscription-based weight-loss approaches. When asked how much consumers were willing to spend per month on a specialized program or app to help them reach their weight loss goals, the most popular answer among those interested was ‘up to $10’ (at 34%). That’s followed by $10-$25 (at 24%) and $25-$50 (at 18%). Just a quarter of interested U.S. adults are willing to spend more than $50 monthly on a weight-loss program or app (n=1,444).

Interested in a deeper dive into the rapidly shifting weight-loss industry? Stay ahead of the curve with the CivicScience InsightStore. Get in touch.