Caving to Cravings

Many studies in medicine and nutrition are notable for uncovering a phenomenon that was previously not known or fully understood: the effect of a drug, the consequences of a behavior. But sometimes, a study is useful because it confirms or backs up what everyone suspected. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to studying Americans’ eating behaviors. Last year here at Diabetes Flashpoints, for example, we discussed a survey that showed the vast majority of snacking takes place at home, and that while most people say it’s important for their snacks to be healthy, the most popular snack items consumed are chips and soda.

A market-research report released last month further highlights the gap between what Americans believe about nutrition and what they’re actually doing. The report, a joint venture between market-research giant Nielsen and the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), is entitled “Health and Wellness in America,” and it documents a variety of attitudes and behaviors found in a survey of the general public. According to an article on the report in Candy Industry magazine, 91% of Americans responded that they snack regularly on unhealthy items like candy, ice cream, and chips. Candy consumption was surprisingly consistent across all segments of the population, including people whose dietary habits were otherwise fairly health-oriented, as shown by their responses about consumption of items like fresh produce, bottled water, and vitamins.

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And based on their responses to a number of nutrition-related questions, it appears that Americans know what they should be doing, even if they’re not actually doing it. While 70% say they’re “actively trying to be healthier,” 54% also say that healthy foods are too expensive to eat regularly, and 50% say they’re not willing to sacrifice taste for better health. While 50% say they give in to their cravings when eating out, 75% say they feel they can manage their health issues through nutrition. Despite these reported behaviors, 64% of Americans say they will take whatever means necessary to control their own health.

What’s your reaction to these responses — do you identify with the conflict between knowing what you should be doing and how you actually behave in the area of nutrition? Is it a good thing that so many Americans say they’re trying to be healthier, even if they exhibit some unhealthy behaviors? Do you experience “junk food” cravings regularly for items like chips, soda, candy, or ice cream? If so, how do you deal with these cravings? Leave a comment below!

  • CJBL

    For me, unhealthy eating behaviors were demonstrated before I was diagnosed with diabetes. My parents did not want to give up eating sweets, yet that is what I was told to do. So I made a habit of sneaking foods I shouldn’t have into my life. Friends would get me unhealthy things to eat and it became “normal” for me to hide things. Even after I was married, old habits didn’t die. I have struggled with weight for 25 years and am presently trying to lose weight. I have to consider it as a lifestyle change.

    I have ALWAYS loved the taste of cakes, cookies and candy. If only we could make healthy things taste as appealing to our brains, I am sure we would eat more! To the brain, sugar is as addicting (some say) as illegal drugs. The pleasure center of the brain responds differently to unhealthy sugary foods than it does to healthy ones. We need to change the way our brain perceives healthy foods.