Study: Food Choices, Physical Activity Top America's Weight Management Strategies

The survey listed exercise as the top activity Americans would spend time on if there were more time available each week yet there was a gap between that desire and spending money at a fitness facility Photo by Thinkstock
<p>The survey listed exercise as the top activity Americans would spend time on if there were more time available each week, yet there was a gap between that desire and spending money at a fitness facility. (Photo by Thinkstock.)</p>

Changing the types of food consumed and ensuring enough physical activity were rated as America's most effective weight management strategies, according to a report released today.

The International Food Information Council Foundation released its 2015 Food & Health Survey, which detailed the results of an online survey given to 1,007 Americans ages 18 to 80.

Of that group, changing foods topped the list of weight management strategies at 51 percent with physical activity second at 50 percent.

The biggest barrier to losing or maintaining weight? Lack of willpower (37 percent) and lack of time (31 percent).

The survey also revealed differences in an individual's weight perception and reality. It found 84 percent of respondents are either trying to maintain or lose weight, and 57 percent rate their health as very good or excellent. However, 55 percent of that 57 percent are overweight or obese.

"What I fear is that we've reset the bar, in that some people actually don't know what feeling good is like, but they think they feel pretty good," said Dr. Jim Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado. "So we've almost lowered the bar in defining what good health is."

If people were suddenly given an extra four hours per week, the survey respondents listed exercise as the top activity the hypothetical time would be spent on (36 percent). Friends and family came in at 31 percent, relaxing or sleeping was at 29 percent, and doing household chores or tasks was 20 percent.

Yet, the survey showed a gap between the desire for more exercise and spending money to work out at a fitness facility.

If the respondents received an extra $100 per month, nine percent would put that money toward a gym membership or athletic activities. Instead, most people (61 percent) would put that money toward saving, investing or paying off debt.

The survey showed 94 percent of respondents have thought about physical activity with 53 percent giving it 'a lot' of thought. The most likely demographics to give physical activity 'a lot' of thought are those in better shape, college graduates and women.

That 53 percent marked a decline for the third straight year, down from 60 percent in 2013.

Forty-one percent of respondents gave 'a little' thought to physical activity, up from 35 percent in 2014 and 37 percent in 2013.

The survey also profiled efforts to choose healthier dietary options:

  • 82 percent are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • 76 percent are cutting calories by drinking water, low calorie or no calorie beverages.
  • 70 percent are eating more foods containing whole grains
  • 68 percent are cutting back on foods that are higher in added sugars
  • 68 percent are consuming smaller portions.

The survey found higher-income consumers are more likely to buy foods based on production or source (local, no added hormones or steroids, organic) and are more likely to report avoiding specific components and ingredients.

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