Americans Experience "Control Gap" Regarding Their Weight, Diet, Activity Level; Rate Their Overall Diet a "B-Minus"; Would Also Far Prefer Losing $1,000 Vs. Gaining 20 Pounds

Contact Info: 

Contact Matt Raymond or Jania Matthews at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org

(Washington, D.C.,) – The vast majority of Americans believe it’s possible to have a great deal of control over their level of physical activity, the healthfulness of their diet and their weight, yet far fewer are actually taking that control.  Those are among the findings of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2013 Food & Health Survey.

According to the Survey, 90 percent of respondents say it’s possible to have “a great deal of control” or “complete control” over their level of physical activity, yet only 65 percent are actually trying to take that same amount of control in their own lives—a 25-point “control gap.”  In terms of the healthfulness of their diet, there is a 20-point gap (88 percent versus 68 percent), and regarding their weight, the gap is 16 points (81 percent versus 65 percent).  This indicates that there are barriers preventing people from taking more control of their physical activity, diet and weight.  A lack of willpower (64 percent), the dislike of exercise (60 percent), the perceived high cost of healthful food (54 percent), and slow progress (51 percent) are barriers that prevent Americans from taking greater control over their weight.

On the other hand, when asked about other factors such as their happiness, physical attractiveness, the amount of money they make, and the safety of the foods and beverages they consume, the gap vanishes, and Americans are taking at least as much or more control in their own lives than they believe is actually possible.

“This year, the Food & Health Survey examined the intersection between consumers’ beliefs and their actions, and some of the results are surprising,” said Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Senior Vice President, Nutrition and Food Safety, IFIC Foundation. “Our findings clearly reveal a control gap when it comes to nutrition and health.  People think it’s quite possible to control their weight, diet and level of physical activity, yet many are falling short in their own lives and recognize that it’s easier said than done. It’s important for all of us to recognize the gap and work on countering the barriers.”

When asked to assign a letter grade from A to F to their own diet and physical activity, consumers gave their own level of physical activity an average grade of “C-plus,” while they grade their own diets slightly higher at an average grade of “B-minus.” While Americans acknowledge that there is room for improvement in their diet, they believe they are doing a full letter grade better than other Americans: They rated the diet of the average American at “C-minus.”  In order to improve the grade of their own diets, Americans think they should eat a more balanced diet in general, including eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer sweets and snacks.

The Survey was fielded by Mathew Greenwald & Associates of Washington, D.C., between April 11 and 19, 2013, and involved 1,006 Americans ages 18 to 80. Results were weighted to match the U.S. Census based on age, education, gender, race/ethnicity, and region to be nationally reflective.  

Additional Findings from the IFIC Foundation’s 2013 Food & Health Survey:

  • More than half of Americans (56 percent to 35 percent) agree that they would rather lose $1,000 than gain an additional 20 pounds.  Women are more likely to prefer to lose the money than men (63 percent to 48 percent).  Not surprisingly, as an individual’s income increases, so too does their likelihood to agree with the statement (47 percent of individuals who make less than $35,000 per year versus 68 percent of those who make more than $75,000 per year).  
  • Taste continues to be the most important factor driving consumers’ decisions to buy foods and beverages, with 89 percent rating the impact of taste as high, versus 71 percent who said “price,” 64 percent who said “healthfulness,” 56 percent who said “convenience” and 36 percent who said “sustainability.”  Those numbers are largely consistent with the findings in the 2012 Food & Health Survey; however, healthfulness and convenience have increased steadily since the initial Survey in 2006.

  • People’s willingness to believe new information about food and health is impacted most by their own research, with 91 percent saying it has at least some impact.  That number falls to 87 percent who are impacted by hearing the information from friends or family members, 84 percent who hear it from someone who has an advanced degree in health or nutrition, 70 percent who hear it in the news (TV, radio, newspaper or Internet), and just 29 percent who see the information on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  The Survey also indicates that the majority of Americans (78 percent) agree that they would rather hear what they should eat than what they should not eat, preferring positive messages about how to have a healthful diet.
  • Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) are somewhat or very confident in the safety of the U.S. food supply, while 29 percent are not too confident or not at all confident.  While this is still a large majority of the US population, it indicates a significant decrease from the 2012 Food & Health Survey, when 78 percent were somewhat or very confident, while 18 percent were not too confident or not at all confident.
  • For a copy of the IFIC Foundation’s 2013 Food & Health Survey Executive Summary and other resources for journalists and bloggers, please visit the IFIC Foundation’s Media Resource Page. The full data tables are available for purchase from the IFIC Foundation Publications Store at www.foodinsight.org or by contacting the IFIC Foundation media team at 202-296-6540 or media@foodinsight.org.

    For more on the International Food Information Council Foundation, its resources or any other questions, please contact the IFIC Foundation media team at 202-296-6540, Matt Raymond (raymond@ific.org) or Jania Matthews (matthews@ific.org).

The International Food Information Council Foundation is dedicated to the mission of effectively communicating science-based information on health, nutrition and food safety for the public good. The IFIC Foundation is supported primarily by the broad-based food, beverage and agricultural industries. Visit http://www.foodinsight.org

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