Fed up with healthy eating?

Is your New Year’s resolution to eat wisely fading faster than a plate of jumbo shrimp at a cocktail party? Are you tired of trying to keep up with the latest healthy food trend? Ready to embrace the late 1950’s lifestyle of the Hollywood Rat Pack?If you’re shaking your head (and perhaps a martini) as you listen to the latest health food pronouncement, you’re not alone. A U.S. study has quantified what’s now being called the ‘nutrition backlash’.

“The more negative and confused people feel about dietary recommendations, the more likely they are to eat a fat-laden diet that skimps on fruits and vegetables,” says Ruth E. Patterson, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.

“It seems as if all of a sudden big steakhouses are ‘it’, and they’re not just serving steak, they’re serving a 1-pound steak and everything is drenched in butter.”

Dietary attitudes studied
Patterson and collaborators from the University of Washington just completed a behavior survey that included questions on attitudes toward dietary recommendations. The survey found evidence both for and against ‘nutrition backlash’. This backlashs defined as negative feelings such as anger, skepticism, helplessness, worry and cynicism about dietary recommendations.

  • About 70 per cent of respondents felt that people are obsessed with the fat in their diet and that the government should not tell people what to eat.
  • More than 25 per cent agreed that eating low-fat foods takes the pleasure out of eating.
  • More than 40 per cent stated they were tired of hearing about what foods they should or should not eat. They felt that dietary recommendations “should be taken with a grain of salt.” (Not literally, of course)

Older respondents
Among those scoring highest on the ‘backlash scale’ were people over 60 years old and young men aged 18 to 35. Not surprisingly, those who reported the greatest degree of backlash had diets that were approximately four percentage points higher in ‘energy from fat.’

“The majority of the public still care about their diet and health, but there are definitely some subgroups that have just plain ‘had it’,” says Patterson.

“Perceptions that the diet-health message is constantly changing could undermine the credibility of future nutrition-education efforts.”

A clear and consistent nutrition message is needed. Patterson and her colleagues have called for collaboration among health organizations, government agencies, the food industry and the media.