The most popular diet of 2020 isn’t a diet
Diet may be a new four-letter word…
We at BodyNutrition surveyed 500 people, and the most popular diet of 2020 is not dieting.
It seems like each new year there are 10 new diets. All of them claiming to be better than any previous diet you’ve been on. All of them claiming that every other diet is just a fad, while theirs will change your life.
Each diet throws a bunch of before and after pictures at you, some compelling narratives from people in the program, and before you know it, you’re ready to dedicate your whole life to this new life-changing diet.
Until you remember last year’s life-changing diet…
It seems like Americans are getting burned out with dieting.
Nearly a third (29%) of people said they didn’t diet in any way, and 32% of people said they simply watch their calories or try to eat less. Fewer than 20% said their primary method of dieting was making a large lifestyle change like becoming vegan or switching to a paleo diet, and only 16% follow a weight loss program.
The most popular form of dieting in 2020 is intermittent fasting, with 30% of people saying they’re currently on or most likely to try an intermittent fasting diet. If you haven’t heard of it yet, you likely will soon because its popularity is blowing up.
Intermittent fasting is the idea that you limit your food intake to only 8 hours a day—your most active 8 hours, when your body is burning its most calories. Then for the other 16 hours, you fast.
This kind of diet is appealing because there are no limits or rules about what you can eat during those 8 hours. You just have to be strict about the timing.
It’s kind of the non-dieter’s way to diet.
And with America’s seeming rejection of strict fad diets, it makes sense.
Why Does America Diet?
At this point, most people are aware of the danger media and peer pressure can pose to people’s body image.
We often hear about the negative effects of promoting only one body type over others. However, this may be less of a factor in today’s world than it was a few years ago, at least among adults. Only 5% of adults polled said that they felt pressured to diet by family, friends, or the media.
The majority of people dieted either for health or weight loss. This may not be very surprising but, coupled with the low number of people who felt pressured by outside sources, this may indicate that, today, people are dieting primarily for themselves.
Nearly 25% of people dieted for self-confidence, but again, this seems to be motivated not from surrounding pressure but from a desire to improve themselves. This seems to show a marked difference from the narrative surrounding dieting in the past.
We also found that Republicans were far more likely to diet for weight loss than for health—with nearly 50% of self-proclaimed Republicans dieting for weight loss and only 32% dieting for health.
Democrats were the opposite, although the difference wasn’t as marked. Nearly 40% are dieting for health and only 37% are dieting for weight loss.
Women were more likely to diet for weight loss and for self-confidence, with over 45% dieting for weight loss and nearly 11% dieting for self-confidence. Only about 7% of men dieted for self-confidence, and only 35% of men dieted for weight loss.
Most men were focused primarily on dieting for health, with nearly 40% dieting for this reason.
What’s Stopping You?
Anxiety and peer pressure still play a large role in the diet industry, and diet programs have not all gone the way of the dodo.
In fact, anxiety and depression are the second most common obstacle for women in achieving their diet goals. 16% of women identify this as their main obstacle. In contrast, only 8% of men identified anxiety and depression as their main obstacle.
Diet programs prey on this insecurity…
Women were almost twice as likely to be a part of a weight loss program than men.
Now, you may be wondering what the #1 obstacle is. Well, that would be our age-old enemy, self-control.
Self-control is the biggest dieting obstacle—across all demographics—affecting 50% of respondents.
The remaining answers were spread fairly evenly, with a few other notable exceptions. For men the second most common obstacle, at 16%, was time. Only 12% of women found time to be their main obstacle.
Money was an obstacle for about 12% of respondents.
An alternative to dieting is lifestyle changes, such as veganism or paleo, so we wanted to find the prevalence and popularity of these types of lifestyle changes.
Only about 10% of people self-reported as vegans. This is slightly higher than Gallup poll results from the past few years, which put vegans at around 5% of the population, but it’s still surprisingly small.
Over half of vegans (55%) diet for health-related reasons, which was much higher than any other diet we asked about. An interesting byproduct of this is that the plant-based diet has one of the higher staying powers of any diet. 45% of all people polled only stuck with their diets for a few weeks at most. 56% of Vegans said they had stuck with their diet for a few months or were still following their diet.
As it turns out vegans are most likely to remain faithful to their diet. 41.5% of vegans report they’re still on their diet, while only 26.8% of intermittent fasters, 25% of paleo dieters, and 29.8% of keto dieters are still on their diet.
Taken together, these numbers indicate that—compared to intermittent fasting, keto, and paleo—the vegan diet is perceived as more of a lifestyle change than a short-term diet.
Lastly, we asked people what helps them diet.
Nearly half of dieters (45%) simply wing it when it comes to their diets. Intermittent fasters are the most likely diet group to “wing it” with 44% of them saying that’s how they manage their diet.
Most other dieters (28.7%) use apps to keep their diet on track. Not surprisingly apps are most popular with people under 30. Over 40% of people under 30 use apps to help them lose weight. Only 23% of people over 30 use apps, and over half of people over 30 wing it.
It seems the majority of people in 2020 don’t want a short-term diet. They want something they can commit to long-term, or they don’t want anything at all.
The term diet has become less popular. But dieting is still relatively common—an incongruence we find interesting.
Health and weight loss have become normal behaviors. As a result, the pressure to diet doesn’t come as often from outside sources. It comes from people’s desire to improve themselves.
When choosing a diet, people today look for something they can stick to. They want to diet on their own terms. They don’t want to be tied down or limited by their diet.
2020 is the year of the anti-diet.
People are choosing “diets” that reject the constraints of traditional dieting in favor of simply eating less and eating healthier.
Maybe it’s not a bad thing that diet is becoming more and more of a bad word.