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NEW YORK -- According to a new ACNielsen study, Americans are well aware of how to control their weight, but often don't follow their own advice.
LifeChoices, a global ACNielsen study of how habitual out-of-home eating and drinking behaviors are established, found that 82 percent of consumers say that individuals are the most responsible for weight gain in the U.S. population, a much higher percentage than the 6 percent who place the lion's share of blame on the fast-food restaurant industry or the 2 percent who hold food companies primarily responsible.
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Despite this acknowledgement of personal responsibility, consumers aren't likely to step up to the plate. Sixty-two percent of American consumers understand that it's important to engage in a sport, hobby, or exercise regime to lose weight, but just 32 percent of those surveyed have actually done so. However, of those who have become active, 88 percent of them were pleased with the results.
The same disconnect exists with regard to consumers' food choices. Although Americans concede that such activities as cutting down on their eat junk food consumption (65 percent) and replacing sugary drinks or juices with (61 percent), the rate at which they attempt these actions doesn't always jibe with their perceived effectiveness. Only the two most commonly tried weight maintenance activities, eating junk food less often and making meal sizes smaller, attempted by 64 percent and 58 percent of consumers, respectively, have trial rates that come close to matching perceived effectiveness.
The pressing need for convenience is a key reason for this inconsistency, the study found. Almost one-fifth, or 18 percent, of consumers polled said that the primary reason for gaining weight is that modern life is too easy for people to work hard at living a healthy lifestyle. Only lack of exercise, at 29 percent, and the wide availability of junk food, at 19 percent, were chosen more often.
"Messages about healthy eating and exercise are sinking in, yet consumers aren't taking enough action," said ACNielsen c.m.o. Tom Markert in a statement. "This study shows that many consumers consider the lifestyle changes they associate with weight control to be too inconvenient to follow. There is a huge opportunity for restaurants and food companies to approach consumers with products branded as healthy to make their decisions that much easier."
Markert went on to suggest that food companies offer more guidance to often-confused consumers, who tended to overestimate the calorie counts of various snack foods and fast-food meals in the study. One solution he offered was that companies simplify their nutritional messages as much as possible, as in the case of the flood of 100-calorie packs on the market.
"The easier food companies can make these choices for consumers, the more consumers will respond," said Market.