Thinking Wishfully?

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Thinking Wishfully?


Large numbers of people claim to be changing the foods and drinks they consume, many in line with guidance provided by experts, such as eating more fruit, whole grains and vegetables and consuming less soda, white bread and processed food.

But according to a Harris poll, the data strongly suggest that many of these replies reflect wishful thinking and public knowledge of what people think they should be doing, rather than actual changes in behavior. The online survey polled 2,620 adults during September 2010.

Majorities of all adults claim that they frequently or somewhat often eat healthier at home compared to when dining out (79 percent), drink water as opposed to another type of beverage at meals (74 percent), choose healthy snacks (72 percent), eat a balanced diet (72 percent), read nutritional information on packaged food products before buying it (68 percent), attempt to eat smaller portions (64 percent) and exercise regularly (57 percent).

But the pollster cautions that some of the responses may reflect what people think they should be doing rather than what they are actually doing, conceding that at least most know what they should be doing to stay healthy.

Most of those who are obese or even morbidly obese claim to be doing the same healthy things that those who are not overweight say they are doing. For example, relatively few people are regularly (5 or more times per week) eating a full breakfast (22 percent), a full or well-balanced lunch (21 percent) or a full or well-balanced dinner (37 percent) five or more times a week.

When asked what they have been eating and drinking more or less of in the last few months, very large numbers claim to have made many changes in their diet. Harris maintains that if all the people who claim to be consuming more or less of these foods and drinks actually were, there would have been huge changes in sales for the various items, evidence of which has not been seen.

Large numbers of people claim to be eating more fresh fruit (50 percent), more whole-grain items (41 percent), less white bread (38 percent), less soda (37 percent), less processed food (35 percent), more raw vegetables (34 percent), less processed meat (34 percent) and more nuts (30 percent). Adults who are obese and those who are morbidly obese do not have very different results than that of all adults.

Large majorities of all adults understand that what they eat is important. More than 70 percent believe that the amount of each of the following in their diet is very or somewhat important: fat (78 percent), whole grain (78 percent), protein (77 percent), calories (74 percent), saturated fat (74 percent), sugar (72 percent), sodium (67 percent), carbohydrates (65 percent) and hydrogenated oil (61 percent).

Confirming the results of a recent Harris/HealthDay Poll, this new poll finds that many of those who are overweight and obese are not fully aware. Only 61 percent of the morbidly obese and 26 percent of the obese (but not morbidly obese) feel that they are “much heavier than they should be.” And 20 percent of those who are overweight (but not obese) describe their weight as “about right.”

Harris maintains its data confirms the country has an “obesity epidemic” with rapidly rising numbers of people who are overweight and obese, with no good evidence that this trend has stopped or gone into reverse.

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