56% of Americans Have No Idea How to Lose Weight

BY Rachel Cagle
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While 85% of Americans say they know how to eat right, more than half flunked a basic quiz on dietary facts and weight loss. The MDVIP Fat IQ Survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, reveals contradictory behaviors relating to obesity and weight management and explores deeper motivations that may stimulate lifestyle changes and offer Americans a higher probability of losing weight successfully.

America's Fat IQ Report Card:

  • A Grade (90%+): <1%
  • B Grade (80%-89%): 2%
  • C Grade (70%-79%): 10%
  • D Grade (60%-69%): 32%
  • Fail (0%-59%): 56%

"Contrary to what most Americans think, they are largely ill-​informed when it comes to proper dieting and weight loss," said Dr. Andrea Klemes, chief medical officer at MDVIP. "It's easy for people to become overwhelmed by the constant flood of information, which can be confusing. For instance, many people still believe that strength training makes it harder to lose weight, when actually having more muscle helps you burn more calories. As their report card shows, Americans need help separating the facts from fiction."

That number becomes even more alarming when considering that 46.4% of U.S. adults are Healthy Eating Seekers, according to AudienceSCAN.

The survey shows a staggering 82% of adults are currently over their ideal weight. When it comes to shedding excess pounds, four out of five Americans say that hearing from a doctor that they need to lose weight would motivate them (83%). An even greater number (90%) say they'd be influenced if a doctor told them that they have a serious health risk. Yet, only one in five Americans say they've actually asked their primary care doctor for weight loss help or advice (20%).

Dr. Klemes said, "Obesity is a serious disease that warrants medical attention and treatment. Yet, the survey data suggests that Americans aren't tapping into the one resource who could have the most influence on their weight: their physician. Time constraints in the exam room are a serious limitation, plus the misconception that obesity is a personal choice prevents people from establishing an open dialogue with their doctor. Instead, the topic of weight doesn't come up until it's manifested into a more pressing health concern like chronic back pain, high cholesterol or worse, a diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease or cancer."

Luckily, 26.8% of Healthy Eating Seekers plan to visit their doctors for routine health care services this year, according to AudienceSCAN. This is an opportunity for doctors to bring up health concerns and ask if the patient wants any assistance when it comes to eating healthier and losing weight.

The survey uncovers additional layers of inconsistency in what Americans say they know about nutrition, dieting and their motivations and barriers to weight loss:

  • Three out of four Americans admit they would feel better if they tried harder to stay fit (75%).
    • But most say lack of motivation to stick with a diet or exercise plan (58%) and lack of willpower to resist food temptations (55%) are top reasons they have more difficulty losing weight.
    • More than a third of Americans blame their weight-​loss difficulties on bad genetics (35%).
  • 85% of Americans claim they have the knowledge to eat the way they think they should. 
    • However, the same percentage of Americans either underestimate (50%) or don't know (35%) how many calories they need to burn to lose one pound of weight. The correct answer is 3,500 calories.
  • Three out of four obese Americans say they diet and exercise out of concern about their long-​term health (75%).
    • Yet, nearly two-​thirds of obese Americans believe most diet plans ultimately fail (64%).
    • One out of four obese Americans have actually put off or considered delaying a doctor's appointment until they lost weight.

Comparable to other published data on U.S. adult obesity rates, 35% of the survey respondents are classified as obese, and another 30% are overweight based on their Body Mass Index. Obese Americans are known to have an increased risk for many serious diseases and chronic conditions, including hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis and some cancers.

Healthy Eating Seekers can be advertised to most effectively via TV. According to AudienceSCAN, 53.2% of this audience is already watching to catch up on their local news. TV commercials inspired 62.5% of Healthy Eating Seekers to take action last year, followed closely by direct mail ads/​coupons that influenced 59.1% of this audience. Sponsored search results are another effective advertising medium, driving 50% of Healthy Eating Seekers to action within the last 12 months.

AudienceSCAN data is available for your applications and dashboards through the SalesFuel API. Media companies and agencies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.