Smartphone-driven lifestyle works against dieters, survey finds

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Smartphone-driven lifestyle works against dieters, survey finds

Adults trying to lose weight need a new approach that’s compatible with how dieters live today, according to results from a new national survey released earlier this week.

Specifically, most healthcare professionals and a majority of U.S. dieters say losing weight is harder today than it was for previous generations because of the busy, modern lifestyle of Americans (77% of primary care physicians or PCPs, 81% of pharmacists, 62% U.S. adults). In fact, approximately seven in 10 healthcare professionals say it’s harder for Americans today to lose weight compared to just 10 years ago (69% of PCPs, 73% of pharmacists), and the vast majority believe Americans need to take a new approach to weight loss that fits with today’s modern lifestyle (89% of PCPs, 95% of pharmacists).

“These findings highlight that while the way we live has changed dramatically over the past 10-20 years, our approach to weight-loss has not evolved sufficiently to address those changes," Frank Greenway, medical director and professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, said. "The results underscore that we need to take a step back and evaluate what weight-loss strategies can best set people up for success given the demands of their daily lives.”

Results from the survey suggest that today’s “on-demand,” screen-focused way of life is making Americans increasingly inactive. For example, the vast majority of healthcare professionals and U.S. dieters say screen time (i.e., everyday use of mobile, tablet and computer screens) keeps Americans from moving around today as much as we did in years past (95% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists, 88% of U.S. adults), and that on-demand services such as meal delivery, ride sharing, streaming TV, online shopping, etc. are having the same effect (82% of PCPs, 84% of pharmacists, 80% of U.S. adults).

Survey findings also show that healthcare professionals are worried about a trend toward eating habits driven by lack of time, with most being concerned that Americans not taking the time to plan healthy meals will negatively impact their weight (98% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists) and their family’s weight (97% of PCPs, 97% of pharmacists).

Approximately four in 10 U.S. adults are currently trying to lose weight (41%). Yet, perhaps in part because of the increased challenges associated with doing so, only about three in 10 of them are confident that they’ll be able to achieve their current weight-loss goals (29%). This may be because, for the majority, it is not their first attempt — approximately six in 10 say they are frustrated by repeated efforts to lose weight (59%), and, typically, they have attempted to lose weight five times in the past five years.

Similarly, healthcare professionals say only a small percentage of their patients are able to lose weight and keep it off. On average, PCPs say only 12% of their patients are able to do so, and pharmacists say that only 14.1% of the patients they counsel are able to lose weight. They also say that dieting can have unwanted consequences, and can even lead to weight gain. For example, 77% of PCPs and 84% of pharmacists say that after going through a period of extremely reduced calorie intake, a person’s body will prepare for the next “starvation” period and the person may gain weight in response, and 62% of PCPs and 72% of pharmacists say that drastically reducing the number of calories a person gets will slow down the body’s weight-loss process.

“Most of the people I counsel come to me after several failed attempts to sustainably lose weight—and often after a diet, they gain back more weight than they initially lost, and they often give up after ‘cheating’ on the diet,” said Brooke Schoonenberg, a provider at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. “For many, the time required for meal planning isn’t compatible with the demands of their careers and/or parenting. And, even when time is found, they can fall back into usual habits because the diet didn’t help them adopt changes that they could sustain over the long-term.”

Not only do healthcare professionals say that Americans need a new approach to weight loss, but they also point to several things that can help set people up for success. The No. 1 factor they cite for successful weight loss given today’s busy, modern lifestyle is having a plan/method (89% of PCPs, 87% of pharmacists), that includes being sustainable (79% of PCPs, 69% of pharmacists), not being time consuming (56% of PCPs, 55% of pharmacists), not requiring sudden/major shifts to a person’s daily routine (54% of PCPs, 53% of pharmacists), and working quickly and safely (42% of PCPs, 36% of pharmacists).

Furthermore, healthcare professionals and U.S. dieters agree that advice and support from a healthcare professional are important in order to successfully lose weight (93% of PCPs, 96% of pharmacists, 66% of U.S. adults). However, eight in 10 healthcare professionals (85% of PCPs, 84% of pharmacists) wish they had more weight-loss options to offer their patients who are overweight (i.e., not yet obese), and the majority say that having a weight-loss product/aid that fits into one’s lifestyle without unpleasant side effects would make it easier for their patients to lose weight (63% of PCPs, 60% of pharmacists).

Today, only 32% of U.S. dieters who are currently trying or have ever tried to lose weight say that they discussed or developed a specific weight-loss plan with a healthcare professional. But, the vast majority of healthcare professionals think it is important to intervene and discuss weight loss/management with overweight patients before they become obese (96% of PCPs, 91% of pharmacists).

The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll in October/November 2017 on behalf of Swiss Life Science Group Zaluvida, the makers of I-Remove, and included nearly 1,000 healthcare professionals (458 PCPs and 503 pharmacists), and more than 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and over.