The first-ever Reader’s Digest global diet poll of 16,000 people in 16 countries explored people’s attitudes and behaviours about weight, weight loss, and obesity. What country diets the most? Which one thinks being overweight isn’t something to worry about? Which country swallows the most diet pills? Who’s to blame for the global obesity epidemic?
Globally, most respondents feel that being overweight is damaging to their health and self-esteem and gets in the way of their sex life. In the UK, 24% of Britons felt that being overweight can “seriously interfere” with job prospects, although only 4% of men and 3% of women admit to dieting to impress the boss. Other nations make no bones about it: 67% of Indians, 57% of Germans and 56% of Filipinos think weight and career success are linked.
Mexico leads the way as the country with the healthiest approach to losing weight. Almost all (93%) Mexicans have tried switching to a more healthy diet in an attempt to lose weight, and 86% have tried to become more physically active. Britons too are more likely to take the healthy route to weight loss – 71% say they try to eat healthier, more nutritious food and 68% become more physically active. Diet pills and smoking to control weight are not as prevalent in the UK as in other countries: only 17% of Britons admit to having tried diet pills compared to 37% in China. Smoking to suppress appetite persists in some countries: China, Philippines, Mexico and – especially – Russia where 23% of men and 18% of women admit to it. Only 5% of Britons say they’ve ever tried to smoke themselves thin.
Brazil feels the most pressure to be thin. The survey found that 83% of Brazilians think there is too much emphasis placed on weight, with 77% of men and 89% of women feeling the pressure. Comparatively, 62% of British women feel the pressure to stay slim.
The Philippines is the country where people are most likely to blame themselves for being fat. More than half of British women (54%) blame their failure to lose weight on their lack of willpower. And where do people blame their parents for being fat? Russia. An amazing 70% of Russians point to their genes as the reason they are overweight. Germans (61%) and Indians (50%) also use this excuse. In the U.S., 20% of Americans blame their parents.
More than any people surveyed, the French point to American eating habits and fast food as the culprits in their nation’s growing girth. It’s somewhat reassuring to note that at least the U.S. recognises and takes responsibility, as almost three quarters of Americans admit the exportation of fast food promotes obesity.
The Reader’s Digest Global Diet poll also puts forward the basis for a potential global weight-loss plan by uncovering the varied cultural habits and customs that can keep people slim and healthy. Highlights include:
• Thailand believes in spicy food. Hot peppers raise your metabolism and burn extra c
• Switzerland recommends muesli - it has been linked to better health and weight control
• Brazil enjoys rice and beans with almost every meal, and research has found that this
lowers the risk of becoming overweight by 14% when compared with typical Western fare
• The Dutch eat approximately 85 million raw herring a year. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids,
herring reduces levels of stress hormones cortisol and insulin
• For India, Finland, and the Netherlands, exercise is the integral ingredient, with yoga,
walking, and biking, respectively, being key to weight management
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