New survey reveals No. 1 motivation cited by people who want to lose weight

Wanting to look better has long been a top reason for losing weight, but a new survey on the eating and dieting habits of people who want to lose weight finds that improving health is more of a motivator than improving physical appearance.

The survey commissioned by The Mayo Clinic Diet asked more than 200,000 Americans about what was on their minds when starting a new diet program.

Eighty-three percent of those polled were thinking about their health, five times more than those motivated by looks or other external factors.



“The survey indicates that people are ready for a lifestyle change for good reasons — mainly to improve their health. That’s good news,” Dr. Donald D. Hensrud, medical director for the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and author of The Mayo Clinic Diet, said in a news release.

“My ‘aha!’ moment was — I was doing my usual fast food drive-thru on my way to work. And the line was out to the street. So I went in, and I’m standing in there and I’m looking around, I’m like, oh, dear Lord, this is a group of the most unhealthy people I have ever seen,” said Nick Torres, 60, of Alexandria.

“And then I looked at my reflection in the glass, at my judgmental self, and I realized — I am in my element, I am right there with them,” he said.

Nick Torres before joining the Mayo Clinic Diet and Nick after losing 50lbs with the program. (Courtesy Nick Torres)

Torres said losing fifty pounds on the Mayo Clinic Diet has been a learning experience.

“It’s about your capital D diet, all the things you take in,” he said.

Growing up, his main exposure to vegetables was green bean casserole at Thanksgiving and whatever was in the little corner of the TV dinner tray.

“But now I’m like ‘Baby spinach sure! Swiss chard, who knew?’ I didn’t even know what that was six months ago,” he said.

Torres said going from obese to simply being overweight is great.

He’s cut his blood pressure medication in half. An upcoming appointment with the sleep apnea doctor will involve a test to see whether he can stop using the continuous positive air pressure, or CPAP, machine.

Torres said he has the resting heart rate of an athlete and his knees no longer hurt going up three flights of steps.

“I don’t want to be unhealthy,” he said. “I think the pandemic helped a lot with that recognition. Because, you know, the number one factor of ‘Are you going to be hospitalized and have a bad time’ is — are you obese?”

Another survey finding suggests that people don’t have to be super motivated to accomplish weight loss goals.

Survey participants who ended up joining the Mayo Clinic Diet dropped 5.1% of their body weight within 12 weeks regardless of being rated among those with the highest or the lowest motivation to be successful.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet is among those ranking highest on the U.S. News & World Report “Best Diets” 2022.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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