January 14, 2010 / 11:45 PM / 9 years ago

Battle of the bulge a global issue: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Brazilians feel the most pressure to be thin, the Finns are acutely aware of the dangers of obesity and Americans have the toughest struggle to lose weight, according to a global survey.

A competitor prepares to go in front of judges at a casting call for the second season of the reality television programme "Dance Your Ass Off", during which overweight or obese contestants hope to lose weight by dancing, in New York December 18, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

The Reader Digest poll also revealed that Russians smoke the most to try to drop excess weight, and along with Germans and Indians they are most likely to blame genetics for their penchant for piling on the pounds.

“Our poll makes it clear that people around the world are struggling with their weight,” said Peggy Northrop, the vice president and global editor-in-chief of the magazine.

“People are both very concerned about weight and think that people pay too much attention to weight,” she added in an interview.

About 1.6 billion people around the world are overweight or obese. Excess weight also contributes to 2.5 million deaths globally each year, according to the WHO.

But people are trying to lose weight.

More than 80 percent of Finns have tried to slim down, followed by 73 percent of the Dutch and 72 percent of Australians and Americans.

But Mexicans had one of the best approaches to losing weight.

“In Mexico, people have a healthy attitude about what you’re supposed to do if you want to lose weight. The majority of people there understood that eating a healthier diet was key and getting more active was key,” Northrop said.

“In the United States people were still on the deprivation cycle and we know that doesn’t work,” she added.

Around the globe women were more likely than men to diet, according to the survey of 16,000 people in 16 countries.

In the United States, 85 percent of women have tried to diet at some time during their life, and 70 percent thought there was too much of a focus on weight.

In Brazil, the land of the bikini, 83 percent of people said there is too much emphasis on weight.


In addition to being unhappy with their own weight, 51 percent of wives in the United States thought their husbands could benefit from dropping some weight.

It was also an issue in India where 48 percent of men and 46 percent of women admitted to being dissatisfied with their spouse’s weight.

People around the globe had excuses for their bulging bulk, but the Russians topped the chart at 70 percent in blaming their problem on genes, followed by 61 percent of Germans and 50 percent of Indians.

In the Philippines lack of willpower was cited as the main culprit for the battle of the bulge, while 20 percent of Americans blamed their parents.

The magazine also cited cultural tips for a gaining and maintaining a healthy weight.

In Thailand it said spicy food was recommended, including hot peppers that raise metabolism and burn extra calories. High-fiber muesli is a favorite in Switzerland to control weight, while in Brazil rice and beans is a staple.

Exercise is also a key component to a svelte physique, with yoga a favorite activity in India, walking in Finland and cycling in the Netherlands.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz

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