The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

U.S. Weight Worries are Low

U.S. Weight Worries are Low

Shoppers and Trends

May 29, 2011

A multi-year study conducted by the nonprofit International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation recently found that this year fewer Americans are worried about their weight than last year. The researchers were surprised to find that concern about weight loss and overall perception of personal healthfulness is at an all time low. This is especially shocking because nutrition and leading a healthy lifestyle are of top mind in most food discussions both for shoppers as well as the food industry and certainly the White House.

The IFIC study found a plurality of respondents (42%) do not even count calories, and on top of that more people admit that they’re not trying to balance the number of calories they eat and burn. Yet calories are the first thing that the participants said they look at on a nutrition label. The study also found that 43% of Americans say they are sedentary as compared to last year’s 37%.

Fewer people in the survey considered themselves to be overweight (50% in 2011 versus 57% in 2010), but their reported weights and heights place them in the overweight category. Based on height and weight calculations, 34% are considered overweight and 34% are considered obese. It may be time to look in the mirror. Also alarming is that only 57% of participants are concerned about their weight, which is down from 70% last year.

This study is alarming. The food industry needs to continue the fight against obesity, and one of the first steps is to help individuals recognize the problem and empower them to use the tools to gain back their health. If we continue down this path, what’s next? Sixty-six percent of Americans are currently overweight or obese, costing billions in health care expenditures. This study is clearly a call to action for all Americans. Our government, food industry and other groups are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get healthy weight messages across, and they may not be working. We need to hear clearly what consumers are saying.

These survey respondents (as expected) reported that taste is the number one factor followed by price when choosing foods. The healthfulness of food ranked in third. How can we empower Americans to recognize their issue and lose weight? We need to demonstrate portion sizes and have more group activities (think of the success of Weight Watchers) that are more streamlined, and provide easy to understand health and weight management information. This is about long-term behavioral change, not a quick fix. Perhaps people are getting tired of hearing about getting in shape, and so they've lost focus on what matters. It is our job to help get them back on a healthier path.