Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interest In Dieting Slims Down

“The number of people on a diet - 26 percent of all women in the United States and 16 percent of men for the year ending February 2008 - is the lowest it's been in more than two decades, according to a soon-to-be-released survey. ’Our interest in losing weight is waning,’ says Harry Balzer, lead food and beverage industry analyst for The NPD Group, a market research firm, and author of the survey, the Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. The report, which asks 5,000 Americans to keep a daily journal for two weeks about their eating habits, also found that despite high levels of obesity nationwide, a declining percentage of people want to slim down or, for that matter, consider excess weight unattractive. In 1985, 55 percent of those surveyed ‘completely agreed’ with the statement, ‘People who are not overweight look a lot more attractive.’ Today, only 25 percent completely agree with it. In 1990, the same report found that 39 percent of women and 29 percent of men were on a diet. Balzer, who's tracked Americans' eating habits since the 1980s, believes the answer is that dieting is simply too hard. ‘It's much easier to change your attitude,’ he said, than to sustain the willpower to eat less. That view is echoed by Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who says that diets are ‘notoriously ineffective,’ and posits that many overweight people may have simply given up. ‘The way health is being approached today is to eat healthier foods, not to eat less,’ says Balzer. Indeed, foods once shunned as fattening - nuts, olive oil, avocados - have been reborn as elixirs, valued for their anti-inflammatory or nutrient-rich qualities. Even chocolate, once a dietary pariah, now enjoys a reputation as a flavonoid-rich disease-buster. There's another possible explanation: Fewer people are dieting because there's no exciting new diet on the scene. ‘One of the real challenges for the diet book industry is - surprise - coming up with new diets,’ says Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly. Having exhausted seemingly every type of diet imaginable, she adds, the industry is trying a new tack: focusing less on the diet and more on the dieter. But first they're going to have to convince the overweight they're actually overweight. Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says many heavy people don't see themselves that way. According to the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, about 66 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. The government asks people about dieting habits, but researchers have not yet compiled statistics. ‘With 2 out of 3 people overweight in this country, it is hard for many people to gauge when they are overweight,’ she said. ‘If you look like all of your friends, you may not perceive there is a problem.’ Then again, maybe the drop in dieting heralds a new era in weight loss, one in which we're not counting, weighing, and measuring.”


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