Diet Trend: Fewer People Are On Them, But Those Who Are Stick To It

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The number of people on diets has declined by more than 35 percent over the past 21 years, according to a new survey from The NPD Group, a research company that has been tracking dieting attitudes for almost 30 years.

While about 31 percent of adults said they were currently on a diet when surveyed in 1991, only about 20 percent said the same in a 2012 survey. The results were even more dramatic for women: while 35 percent said they were on a diet in 1992, only 23 percent said the same in 2012.

Although fewer people were on diets, those who did commit tended to follow them for longer: in 2004, only 22 percent of dieters stuck to it for more than a year, while that percentage rose to 27 in 2012.

In a separate area of the same survey, researchers asked participants about their attitudes toward body size. In 1985, 55 percent of all survey respondents agreed that being thin was more attractive. But in 2012, that percentage shrank to less than one quarter of respondents. A look at the research shows why that might not be so surprising: with nearly 63 percent of the U.S. adult population either overweight or obese, our conception of attractive -- and of what looks "normal" -- also changes. One 2010 study found that those who were obese themselves had difficulty determining what a healthy weight looked like when showed photos of varying body types.

Our understanding of what a healthy weight even means is also changing, as new evidence suggests that added pounds may have some protective effect and improve overall longevity.

What do you think? Is it a good sign that fewer of us identify our eating habits as diets? Or are we kidding ourselves?

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