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The average American is almost 20 pounds heavier than they were 20 years ago, but even more troublesome is that their perceptions of what their "ideal weight" should be has jumped as well. The weight that Americans says they want to be at has gone up by 10 pounds since 1990, widening the gap between where they are and where they wish they were.

The average American man was only 10 pounds above their ideal weight in 1990; now it's closer to 15. The average woman is 18 pounds above where they want to be. That means Americans in 2011 are not only getting bigger, they're getting farther and farther from their ideal weight. And that's before accounting for the fact that their ideal weight is already 10 pounds higher than it was back in the 1990s. The average man actually weighs 25 pounds above what was considered the ideal weight of 20 years ago.

The survey — conducted annually by Gallup and relying totally on self-reported figures — suggests that as Americans become more and more obese, they simply adjust their perception of what a healthy size should be. But even their self-delusion can't keep with actual weight gains. Even after moving the bar, Americans continue to get further and further from their ideal weight goals. Given that actual weights are self-reported and not gathered scientifically by doctors, the disparity could actually be even worse.

According to a separate Gallup poll, 61.6 percent of Americans are overweight or obese based on government definitions, even though only 39% personally describe themselves as overweight. The percentage who think their weight is "about right" is unchanged over the last 20 years. When you see headlines like this alongside stories of 200-pound third graders, the outlook for American's health does not look rosy.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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