May 28, 2009 / 6:57 AM / 10 years ago

Fries and a workout? Living healthy can be quite illogical

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - A burger lunch and then a lettuce dinner. A cigarette after a long run. Pizza and beer to battle the blues. Sounds normal? It is, with a survey showing most people’s attitude to healthy living is quite illogical.

Garlic fries are displayed during a media food tour at Yankee Stadium in New York April 15, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

More than half the 10,300 people polled in the global “Healthy Living” survey, conducted by market research firm Synovate, revealed they eat anything they want, when they want, with a third saying they loved fast food too much to give it up.

A third also said they tended to eat more unhealthy junk food when feeling down.

But one in four people surveyed in 12 countries also said they did something to compensate for unhealthy habits such as exercising, or cutting back on food, cigarettes or alcohol, with that number rising to one in seven of all Chinese polled.

“These attitudes may not make complete sense, but when it comes to food, health and weight management, people are inherently contradictory,” said Steve Garton, executive director of media for Synovate.

“We did the same survey in late 2007 and it seems people are no less confused about food now than they were then. It all comes back to whether we think of food as pleasure or food as fuel... and it seems that most people vacillate between the two.”

While nearly half of all Americans and Britons say they can’t give up fast food, the study reveals Bulgaria as the world’s most junk-food addicted nation, where nearly 70 percent of respondents head to a fast food joint on a regular basis.

Least susceptible to the taste of fast food were the Swedes and the Malaysians, with only one in five people in both countries agreeing that they need to eat it.

As for those most likely to eat to lift their mood, the survey showed British and American women tend to emotionally eat their way through life, with nearly half of those surveyed saying they eat when they’re feeling down.

“The knee-jerk reaction to bad news, or even boredom, is often a cup of tea and something sweet to wash it down,” said Jill Telford, chief executive officer of Synovate in Britain.

“Similarly, a bad day can be made a whole lot better with a hefty glass or two of Chardonnay in the evening,” she added.

To tackle weight gain, most people surveyed said they increased their physical activity, and reduced their food intake.

Countries most likely to cut back on what they eat include the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, the United States, Spain, Britain and Canada.

Spaniards and Brazilians were also the most prone to do everything and anything to lose weight, the survey showed, linking this obsession with looking good to the beach culture in both countries.

“Nearly half of all respondents lay the fault with food choices rather than sedentary lifestyles, again bringing us back to the complicated role food plays in our lives,” Garton added.

The survey was conducted online and via face-to-face interviews in February 2009 across 12 countries: Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Britain and the United States.

More details can be found on

Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Sugita Katyal

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