'Control gap' exists among consumers

Published on: May 25, 2013

Americans by and large 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, according to a just released survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

IFIC’s 2013 Food & Health Survey, found that 90% of respondents believe it’s possible to have “a great deal of control” or “complete control” over their level of physical activity, yet only 65% 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, a 20-point gap (88% versus 68%) was found to exist. Regarding their weight, the gap was 16 points (81% versus 65%). IFIC said this indicates there are barriers preventing people from taking more control of their physical activity, diet and weight. Those barriers to weight control were identified as a lack of willpower (64%), the dislike of exercise (60%), the perceived high cost of healthful food (54%) and slow achievement of results (51%).

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, said IFIC, 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 graded 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 online survey was fielded by Mathew Greenwald & Associates of Washington, D.C., between April 11 and 22, 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.

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