Our Relationship with our Health and our Diets
How has our relationship with food changed in the last 12 months?
It’s nearing that complicated time of year for food intake. A time where we enjoy and indulge ourselves with winter warmers, festive favourites and perhaps take it to a little excess? Before, inevitably realising or even predicting that our waistbands are tighter in the new year, and it will be time to replace the indulgence with some body image negativity and a portion of self-control.
Heading into this seasonal food maelstrom, how are we feeling about our weight and diet? What steps do we take to take to manage our food intake and are they effective? We asked 2000 adult men and women across the UK a few questions about their weight and their diet. The results were fascinating.
When asked whether they currently view themselves as overweight, 57% of respondents answered yes to being overweight. This was followed up with two questions; How often do you diet, and have you been on a diet in the last 12 months?
Despite 57% answering that they felt they were overweight, the response to regularity of dieting was mixed. While 15% of people overall regard themselves as constantly dieting, almost half (48%) do not diet at all. The remaining 37% felt they dieted intermittently. Of the respondents who either dieted regularly or intermittently, a significant 79% have dieted in the last 12 months.
The media trends around dieting would suggest that vegetarian and vegan diets are on the rise for those of us seeking a healthier option, but is this the case? Actually the diet most of us are trying or have tried in the last 12 months (56%) has been to simply restrict our calorie intake. Veganism and vegetarianism don’t even feature in the second or third spots for popularity. The next most popular diet was low carb at 30%, followed by sugar free at 23%. In fact, only 9% of our total respondents have tried Veganism in the last 12 months, and 16% have tried vegetarianism.
Londoners are trying more diet types than anywhere else in the country but still very much choosing to restrict calories than any other method. Even in our hipster centric capital, only 16% of Londoners we asked are trying or have tried veganism!
What we found most interesting about this question, was really the lack of an overwhelming majority. It is easy to follow diet trends via celebrities and publications online, and feel that the latest nutritional advice is the best solution out there. In reality, it is refreshing to see that we’re all trying a range of diets. We’re all searching for the diet that works for us as individuals. The two most popular, calorie restriction and low carb are also probably the most logical approach to dieting, and are fairly simple for us to manage on our own. This could explain why most people choose these routes.
It is worth noting that age does seem to impact your choice of diet. Whilst overall veganism and vegetarianism had a low uptake across the board, in the 18-24yrs old category there was a greater uptake. Whilst calorie restriction was still the most popular route to take, 36% of this age group had tried vegetarianism and 30% had tried veganism. This is compared to 2% of 45-54yr olds who have tried veganism, 3% of 55-64 yr olds and just 1% of those 65yrs and older.
Diets tried by our panel in the last 12 months:
Calorie restriction 56 %
Fasting diet 22 %
Low Carb 30 %
Paleo 5 %
Atkins 5 %
Vegan 9 %
Vegetarian 16 %
Mediterranean 8 %
Raw food 5 %
Dukan 1 %
South Beach (Low GI) 2 %
Alkaline 3 %
Sugar free 23 %
Other 16 %
Following this insight into recent diets tried, we also asked what diet programmes our respondents had tried. They were given a choice of Slimming World, SlimFast, Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley, Lighter Life, Our Path or none listed. Interestingly, despite the huge brand awareness and success stories promoted around some of these programmes, 68% responded that they had not tried any of them. From the programmes listed, the most popular programme was Slimming World, but with just 16% overall having tried it.
To dig a little deeper, we wanted to know about the perceived effectiveness of these programmes versus our own ability to manage our diet regimes. The results were inconclusive with 31% not being sure which was more effective. Of the remaining respondents, 29% thought managing their own diet was most effective and 24% thought both were effective. However, only 17% felt that following a diet programme was more effective.
This is interesting because the previous question indicated that actually not many people had tried these diet programmes, yet only 17% of us thought they would be effective anyway. This is despite the expansive marketing campaigns promoting their effectiveness with impressive real life stories and celebrity backing.
Does this ring true with your experience of diet programmes? Are there programmes not listed here that are gaining popularity?
Perception of weight and the need to diet is always an interesting subject. Are we good judges of our own health and wellbeing, or what steps to take if we felt a change was necessary? So we asked how often our respondents weigh themselves.
19% of the respondents answered that they weighed themselves weekly, with 13% weighing themselves daily and 8% never weighing themselves. However, going back to how many people who answered that they were overweight (57%), 6% of these respondents never weigh themselves and 12% very rarely weigh themselves.
Predominantly, it is the younger adult age groups who are weighing themselves most regularly. This is not surprising when you assume that respondents aged between 18 and 34yrs are being more heavily targeted with beauty and fashion advertising, impacting their body image and weight perception.
Clearly weighing ourselves doesn’t give us the whole picture of our health. With the rise of smart watches, apps and digital tools, what are we relying on to help us monitor our health?
Interestingly, 29% of respondents don’t use any monitoring tools. This is particularly notable when compared to the fact that 79% of respondents said they had dieted in the last 12 months. Of the respondents who felt they were overweight, 24% are not using monitoring tools. This suggests we’re making decisions about our weight and routinely dieting, but not monitoring the progress or results?
How does exercise fit into our perception of managing our health?
We asked the panel whether they exercised for at least 150 minutes per week. It was a pretty even response with 51% not managing that level of exercise, and 49% confirming that they do. Of the respondents who had answered that they were currently overweight, 55% of this group were not managing this level of exercise a week. Additionally, of the respondents who had answered that they were constantly dieting, 35% were not completing this level of exercise a week.
Our relationship to exercise, diet and weight is clearly complex. Even in this era of accessible health and well-being resources, we still have a disjointed perception of our weight, how it relates to our health and how to make effective changes.
About this Survey
SurveyGoo conducted a poll among 2,000 GooPoll members in October 2019.