- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Even though two-thirds of the nation is overweight, most Americans are under the impression that their diets are satisfactory. More than two-thirds — 64 percent, in fact — consider themselves “healthy eaters,” according to a new Harris poll released yesterday.

The most popular diet plan?

More than a third of respondents said “Whatever I feel like eating,” followed by 23 percent who reported they followed some variation of the “food pyramid” diet.

Another 12 percent concentrated on meat and potatoes; 10 percent counted carbs; 8 percent watched their fat intake; 9 percent were either unsure or not specific about their diet; and 4 percent were vegetarians.

But we’re sedentary fatties, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — 64 percent of us are either overweight or obese, and 59 percent of us do not exercise.

“Obesity is the terror within,” U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona told a University of South Carolina forum on Wednesday. “Unless we do something about it, the magnitude of the dilemma will dwarf 9/11 or any other terrorist attempt.”

“Where will our soldiers and sailors and airmen come from?” he asked. “Where will our policemen and firemen come from if the youngsters today are on a trajectory that says they will be obese, laden with cardiovascular disease, increased cancers and a host of other diseases when they reach adulthood?”

But Americans assume they are diet-savvy, particularly those older than 55 — the survey found that three-quarters described their eating habits as healthy, more than any other age group.

Still, those habits are inconsistent. Seven out of 10 respondents said they eat healthy at dinner, and 58 percent do the same at breakfast. Things go downhill during lunch and snack time — when just 10 percent to 27 percent felt they were eating responsibly.

The prospect of eating organic foods, however, revealed a sharp divide: 48 percent said they absolutely never sampled the stuff, 50 percent said they sometimes ate organic foods, and 2 percent said they “always” ate such fare.

The poll of 1,040 adults was conducted Jan. 3 to 10.

People don’t fret about their dietary habits elsewhere on the planet, either

Like their American counterparts, two-thirds of Europeans claim they keep a healthy diet, according to a poll of 9,000 adults in 18 countries released March 1 by GFK NOP, a London-based marketing group.

Yet the poll also found that 50 percent of them were obese or overweight and, significantly, that obesity “is not seen as a significant concern by Europeans.” It ranked ninth in a list of 15 common health concerns, according to the survey.

The Europeans were particularly unmotivated. Although 45 percent hoped to slim down, only 14 percent reported they were actually on a weight-loss diet.

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