We Americans have frustrating, often short-lived relationships with our diets. Some may blame that on the willpower of the individual or the effectiveness of the diet itself, but I think it’s more in the way we’re framing the issue. If I could take a bit of creative liberty and sum up mainstream health and diet marketing in one sentence, it’d go something like this: You screwed up, fatty, and now you need to do this.
Who wants motivation like that? Less and less people, thankfully. An interesting story from the New York Times last week points out that more people are taking a positive approach to eating. Rather than focus on the “bad” foods that they need to take out of their diet, they’re instead focused on adding in real foods that are healthy — and yes, sometimes indulgent. Instead of avoiding snacking (and feeling ashamed for even thinking about it!) for example, eat some fruit or a handful of pistachios when you get hungry.
According to the NPD Group, consumer food diaries show that only 26% of women and 16% of men are “on a diet”. That’s the lowest percentage for both groups since NPD started collecting results in 1985. Similarly, the Calorie Control Council reports that the percentage of people on a diet has decreased from 33% in 2004 to 29% in 2007.
Taken one way, these numbers could mean we’re at our unhealthiest. But I think we all know that’s not true. The growth of organic, local, seasonal foods and many other trends have all signaled shifts toward positive eating. People are realizing that reaching healthy goals doesn’t mean they have to be prodded, guilt-tripped and denied. Rather, they can appreciate what they eat and feel encouraged. With that, then, comes understanding and maybe, dare I say it — enlightenment?