January 7th, 2011
In the introduction to my eBook, The 5 Tenets of Permanent Weight Loss, I write:
“What did you have to eat today?”
The problem that I encounter over and over again when I ask anyone this question is that most people don’t really know, or sometimes they can’t remember, let alone know how many total calories they eat on a daily basis. You need to know.
The results of a recently completed telephone survey done by Consumer Reports seems to substantiate my experience, but even more importantly, suggests that not only don’t people really know what they’re eating, but that they “have a tendency to give themselves high marks for healthy eating,” when in reality their diets and nutritional habits leave a lot to be desired….
Recipe for Healthy Eating Not Easy to Stick To
Nearly 90% of respondents to a Consumer Reports telephone survey thought they were eating right (The telephone survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center over two days in November 2010.) — saying that their diet was either somewhat (52.6%), very (31.5%), or extremely healthy (5.6%).
But when they were asked about what they actually eat, far fewer seemed to be following a healthy diet.
For instance, of the 1,234 people surveyed, only 30% said they eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, just 13% step on the scale every morning, and a meager 8% monitor their daily calorie intake.
“Americans have a tendency to give themselves high marks for healthy eating, but when we asked how many sugary drinks, fatty foods, and fruits and veggies they consumed, we found that their definition of healthy eating was somewhat questionable,” Nancy Metcalf, senior editor at Consumer Reports Health, said in a statement.
“We were surprised to find that very few Americans weigh themselves and count calories, two strategies that can help dieters stay on track,” she added. “Americans seem to rely instead on their own internal compasses to slim their girths.”
Many also see themselves as slimmer than they are, the survey found.
About a third of those who said they were a healthy weight actually had a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range (30% and 3%, respectively).
“It’s likely that Americans are thinking about health more, and that’s a good thing,” said Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Still, nine out of 10 think they’re doing pretty well, and to that, I’d say let’s talk again.”
Aside from not eating their fruits and veggies — only 58% get five servings every day or on most days — about half of the population isn’t careful about limiting unhealthy foods. Just 54% said they watch how many sweets they eat every day or on most days, while 51% said they limit fats.
“People should be eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy foods every day,” Ayoob said. “Having some broccoli a few times a week is good but that alone just doesn’t cut it. Add in fish three times per week, and there’s less room for added fats and sugars.”
He added that lowering consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages — 43% of the survey respondents reported having at least one every day — is “one of the easiest things to do because there are numerous alternatives.”
Being active can also help keep the weight down. Of those surveyed, 50% said they are somewhat active and 31% said they are very active — but a sizable percentage reported spending a median of five hours a day sitting. Respondents reported averaging two hours in everyday activity such as housework and one hour in moderate activity, but vigorous exercise came in at under an hour.
“As for activity, we’re definitely fooling ourselves,” Ayoob said. “We’re busy, not active — big difference.”
He added that when they make New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, people should set long-term goals, rather than mile-markers for the end of January or February.
“Think not about where you’ll be with your weight, diet, or lifestyle by next week or even next month. Think about where you’ll be next New Year’s Eve,” he said. “Slow but steady wins in this race. It’ll beat out fast and furious every time — fad dieting proves this.”
By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
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