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Are Americans delusional about their diets?

When the people in front of you at a standard grocery store checkout collectively buy five 6-packs of soda, two frozen pizzas a piece and enough chips and cookies to feed a small army (true story), it's hard to believe that 90 percent of Americans say they eat a healthy diet.

This statistic was recently reported by Consumer Reports in an article aptly titled, "Are we fooling ourselves? 90 percent of Americans say their diet is healthy, CR poll finds". The consumer advocate polled some 1,200 adults by phone last November about their eating habits and how they maintained a healthy diet.

The verdict: Americans really like their Cheerios (mentioned as the favorite breakfast cereal), and they're probably not clear what the definition of "somewhat healthy" really means.

Some of the poll's findings:

  • About 6 in 10 had BMIs in the overweight range
  • 53% of respondents said their diet was “somewhat healthy”
  • 38% thought their diet was “extremely" or "very” healthy
  • 11% said their diet was "not very" healthy or "not at all" healthy

If only 1 in 10 Americans admits to a "not at all" healthy diet, why are more than half of Americans overweight?

I see two factors, among others, at play:

1. No one wants to admit he or she has an unhealthy diet. Even celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow who is known for healthy eating, owns a deep fryer and admits to loving fried food. And, depending on your social circle, eating a deep-fried Twinkie could either draw disgust or be a badge of honor – albeit one that you'll pay for later in your gut.

2. Not a lot of people know the foods they're eating aren't healthy. While nutrition education has progressively gotten better – see "6 signs 2011 could be healthier than 2010" – there's still a long line of cars at my neighborhood McDonald's every night as I drive home from work.

Are you diet delusional?

But having a healthy diet doesn't mean simply not eating fast food. I don't drink soda, consume caffeine or animal products and I avoid processed food. And while that makes it more difficult to eat unhealthy, I still could. As an example, a big bowl of sugary breakfast cereal, bag of salted potato chips and deep-fried tofu does not a healthy vegan diet make.

If you think you might be lying to yourself, keep a food journal for a week. Write down everything you eat and drink and how you felt (your mood) that day. Then review at the end of the week. You may notice a correlation between your diet and your mood. Or find you drink way too many cups of coffee.

As they say, the first step is acknowledging there's a problem. Until we do that – collectively as a country – we'll remain unhealthy in more ways than one.

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