Diet disasters: 4 in 5 fall back into their old food habits after trying to eat healthier

NEW YORK — Almost three in five U.S. adults have attempted a traditional diet in their lifetime (58%). A survey of 2,000 adults reveals that those who have dieted in the past have tried an average of five different approaches. Yet 79 percent of those respondents say they’re likely to revert to their old eating habits after completing or giving up on a diet.

The survey also finds that many seek diets to help them feel good physically (50%), lose weight (48%), boost their energy and immune systems (47%), or feel good mentally (47%).

Biggest diet hurdles

The survey, commissioned by Medifast, the global company behind the OPTAVIA health and wellness community, reveals that half of adults find it hard to prioritize their health. Not having enough time and lack of positive influences tied as the most common challenges.

Lack of support and difficulty breaking unhealthy habits were also cited as barriers to prioritizing health. Yet, survey-takers may have a way to go, with two in three (66%) still believing that changing eating behaviors alone is enough to help improve long-term health.

Many survey respondents admit they haven’t considered other factors that contribute to a healthier lifestyle, like sleep (56%), mental health (57%), and hydration (57%). The majority of respondents who have dieted said it was not a lasting change, which perhaps is why 41 percent would opt to start on a smaller scale and focus on creating healthy habits.

Healthy living takes a village

While 30 percent think adopting healthier habits would come easier for them, more respondents believe it would be a challenge they’d have to work toward (32%). In fact, 67 percent of respondents agree they would be more successful in reaching their health goals if they had more support. More specifically, two-thirds (66%) agree having support from others on the same journey is valuable when making lifestyle changes.

“These findings confirm what has been our guiding light: Consumers are seeking a solution that meets the demands of our modern lives,” says chairman and CEO of Medifast Dan Chard in a statement. “A holistic approach with a built-in support system can help those who have failed on traditional diets alone. Building long-term healthy habits is easier when surrounded by a community of people who get it – because they’ve been on a similar journey.”

In addition to highlighting a cycle of failed diets among the respondents, the majority (61%) agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how they prioritize their health.

Seventy percent of U.S adults now consider their health to be one of the top priorities in their life, more commonly chosen over other responsibilities like taking care of family (56%) and career (57%).

The poll was conducted by OnePoll.


  1. More needs to be said about how unhealthy our food ecosystem is in the United States. At the grocery store, it’s chocked full of foods that are high in added sugar and sodium–even though the way it’s packaged leads you to believe it’s healthy. We would do ourselves a big help by reducing/eliminating certain ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, etc.

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