“Not being overweight is among the top 10 factors defining consumer health and wellbeing, but it’s not number one,” Balanko told FoodNavigator-USA.

“It’s not just about having a healthy weight and an attractive body, it’s also about your ability to deal with stress and anxiety. These issues are inextricably linked.”

According to Hartman Group data from 2021 research paperMore than half of the consumers surveyed identified things like “feeling good” and “strong immunity / ability to recover” as their top descriptions of health and wellbeing.

“Not being sick” and “being able to deal with stress” are top health and wellness priorities for 46% of consumers.

Consumers don’t really talk about “diets” anymore

While not being overweight falls further down the list of contemporary consumer definition of health and wellness, it is still very busy.

The Hartman Group found that 83% of consumers view their weight as needing improvement and that they view food and beverages as the most important tool in weight management.

“There has been a cultural shift from exercise as the primary weight management tool to more exercise for the psychological benefits it provides to many consumers,” notes Balanko.

Almost half (48%) of consumers said they tried a particular food approach with low carb or Atkins and vegetarian food as the main diet of 10% of consumers, followed by intermittent fasting in 9% and WW (Weight Watchers) in the past year 5%. Forty-one percent of consumers said their diet had improved over the past year.

“Consumers are no longer really talking about ‘diets’ but about different nutritional approaches or philosophies,” said Balanko.

“Consumers are actively trying different things, but they are not dieting themselves. We have found consumers adapting their approach to eating and adopting certain elements from Whole 30, Paleo, and so on.”

When asked which foods they removed from their diet, 53% said soda is a known contributor to poor health and weight gain.

In terms of what consumers added to their diet, vitamin D topped the list due to its link to immunity.

“Ordinarily, fiber and protein are high on the list, both things that have long been known to aid healthy weight management and weight loss,” noted Balanko.

81% of consumers believe that they are healthier than average … “a statistical impossibility”

If a clear majority of consumers (83%) feel their weight needs improvement and 42.4% of American adults (according to CDC 2017-2018 data) are considered obese, weight management shouldn’t be higher on the list are health and wellbeing priorities?

According to Balanko, there is a bit of human psychology involved.

“I think the problem is that consumers feel better off than the average American. They really believe that there are a number of people who are worse off than they are, and so it may not be the most pressing problem “, she said .

Balanko adds that 81% of consumers believe their health is above average … “a statistical impossibility,” she says.

Inseparably bound

While weight management isn’t the top health priority for some consumers, it is tied to a number of other health and wellness definitions (e.g., being physically fit, leading a balanced lifestyle, improving emotional wellbeing), says Balanko.

According to the Hartman Group, the main reason for the shift in health and wellbeing is, in part, that many consumers (38%) have experienced increased levels of stress or anxiety over the past year and, as a result, have expanded their personal definition of what it means to be healthy and … well.

“Consumers no longer think about health and weight management in departments,” she said.

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