This Tuesday Questia Group focuses on eating habits and attitudes towards dieting. Our research was conducted through an online survey on our platform questia.ro covering 507 respondents. The survey was active between 4th and 5th April 2017. The main findings are presented below.

Our starting point was World Health Organization’s "A healthy lifestyle" article. The Organization recommends eating lots of fruits and vegetables, reducing fat, sugar and salt intake and exercising. Based on height and weight, people can check their body mass index (BMI) to see if they are overweight. The organization also specifies the benefits of a healthy diet, which are:

  • Having a balanced, adequate and varied lifestyle
  • Boosting immunity and healthy development through vitamins and minerals
  • Protecting the human body against certain types of diseases, in particular, chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer and skeletal conditions
  • Contributing to an adequate body weight
  • Enriching life by experimenting with different foods from different cultures, origins and with different ways to prepare food
  • Stimulating emotionality, as variety and color are important ingredients of a balanced diet

Overview

The World Health Organization’s Fact Sheet proves that unhealthy diets are the leading factors affecting health and well-being in every European country. Excessive consumption of saturated fats, trans fatty acids, sugar and salt increase the risk of overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and several types of cancer. The main findings are listed below:

  • Only five countries report per capita consumption of saturated fat within recommended limits.
  • Consumption of soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages among children and adolescents is very high, and in many countries, they are the single biggest source of free sugars for young people.
  • In Europe, over 50% of people are overweight and over 20% are obese.

Find more information about overweight and obesity rates in adults and adolescents from 53 WHO European Region Member States here.

However, even though choosing any diet might seem like the best option in order to have a healthy lifestyle, this Washington Post article concerning diets presents what diets would be suitable for different people. Israeli researchers Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science have found that people's bodies respond to eating the same meal very differently — which means that a diet that may work wonders for one’s best friend may not have the same impact on others. We conclude from this study that diets do work if one picks the right one.

Therefore, after one has chosen the “perfect diet”, she/he might be surprised if they don’t achieve the results they have expected. From The New York Times' and Washington Post’s articles, we find out that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn’t reliably improve health and does more harm than good. The root of the problem is not willpower, but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of the several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called “the set point”. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding. If someone starts at 120 pounds and drops to 80, his/her brain rightfully declares a starvation state of emergency, using every method available to get that weight back up to normal.

Findings

In order to improve their eating habits, the top 3 activities respondents have chosen to do in the last 6 months are eating healthier (72.6%), stop stressing (68%) and sleeping more (53.4%). Almost two-thirds (63.4%) evaluated themselves as having a predominant healthy nourishment, while more than a quarter considered they don’t follow healthy eating habits.

However, almost half of our respondents have dieted at least once. Out of these, the main reason that made them diet was to lose weight (55%). Almost one third wanted to improve their health state through dieting and a few to maintain their weight and to look good.

Their diet consisted mostly of removing soda (74.8%), sweets (67.8%), snacks (67.4%), beverages (66.5%) and bakery products (54.1%) from their meals, and including vegetables (83.5%), fruits and seeds (78.9%), dairy products (70.6%), eggs (58.7%), fresh juice (58.7%) and cereals (55%).

Products they haven't consumed while dieting:

Products they have consumed while dieting:

The majority of our respondents (79.5%) agrees that in order to be healthy, one should only eat properly, which confirms they’d rather diet instead of practicing sports (51.7% agree). However, they agree not to follow drastic diets after periods of excessive eating (79.7%) and don’t eat more when they’re stressed (58.6%).

When it comes to how they are perceived by the public eye, 63.8% agree that their image counts for their success in life and 52.3% are not happy with their weight.

Regarding consulting the advice of a specialist, 47.3% do not agree at all to visit a doctor before dieting. This attitude is strengthened by the fact that 90% of our total respondents haven’t visited a dietician in the last 6 months. Out of those who did, 83.3% have followed a diet plan after consulting the nutritionist that brought them the results they have desired (87.5%).

Don’t miss Questia Group's studies in the following weeks. Find out more about consumer behavior, attitudes and beliefs regarding numerous topics, from banking to consumer goods.