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Contact: Cindy Karra -- 202-974-5009

Anti-Diet Sentiment Is Pervasive; Underscores Need for Aggressive Education; Shape Up America! Launches Interactive Website In Response

Washington, DC; May 15, 1997 -- Corresponding with the escalating rates of obesity in the U.S., a new Shape Up America! survey documents a persistent anti-diet sentiment among today’s overweight Americans, providing new evidence that these individuals are not making important changes in diet and physical activity levels that could greatly reduce their risk of disease and premature death.

Conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, this new poll is entitled the X-FACTOR (Excessive Fat and Consumption Trends in Obesity Risk) Survey to focus public attention on some of the stumbling blocks that are affecting the ability of overweight Americans to achieve a healthier weight. Focusing specifically on the attitudes and beliefs of 2,000 overweight and obese adults, the survey finds that one of the biggest obstacles is the abandonment of dieting as a weight control strategy. Fully 78 percent of the overweight and obese Americans polled are currently not on a diet to lose weight.

Evaluating the opinions of Americans with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 and above -- the international definition of overweight -- the survey further reveals that even among those at highest risk for health complications (with a BMI of 35 and over), only one in three (37 percent) are dieting to lose weight. For those in the high risk category (a BMI of 30 to 34), 28 percent report being on a diet while less than one in five (18 percent) with a BMI of 25 to 29 say they are taking action to lose weight.

"This anti-diet sentiment is very disturbing and provides a renewed sense of urgency that educating Americans about weight control cannot wait," said Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General and chairman of the anti-obesity campaign, Shape Up America! "Until we give people the educational tools to fight obesity, they will remain frustrated and confused, and obesity rates will continue to skyrocket."

Documenting this mounting frustration with dieting, the X-FACTOR Survey finds that the biggest stumbling block is public confusion, especially about how to reduce calorie levels in the diet. Because this information is severely lacking, the X-FACTOR Survey reveals that less than half of overweight Americans (42 percent) are trying to limit their intake of calories, even though this is an essential element in weight management. This situation exists across the board among overweight individuals, regardless of educational attainment.

To address this situation, Shape Up America! has developed a new tool that, for the first time, translates into real life terms important health messages about sensible eating and increasing physical activity. Designed by nutrition authorities, physical activity experts and an award winning chef, the tool -- called the CYBERKitchen -- is a new interactive feature on the Shape Up America! website (www.shapeup.org) which solves the problem of customizing calorie levels, fat intake, food selections and activity levels so that any individual can understand how to stay within his or her calorie and fat goals.

The CYBERKitchen works by taking the visitor through a number of steps designed to estimate the person’s daily calorie requirement and fat goals. After the visitor enters specific information about his or her height, weight, age, sex, and customary activity level, the CYBERKitchen tells the visitor how many calories he or she needs each day to maintain his or her current weight level, and allows the visitor to adjust the amount upwards or downwards to gain or lose weight respectively. Another choice the visitor can make is whether the day’s calories from fat should comprise 30 percent, 25 percent or 20 percent.

Once these decisions are made, the CYBERKitchen offers the visitor 21 different breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, allowing the person to select one of each. The calorie and fat levels are then calculated and if the visitor is over the limit, the web site either offers the opportunity to choose new selections or gives the individual the option of burning off excess calories with extra physical activity. If exercise is the decision, the visitor chooses a favorite activity and the site tells the person how many minutes of extra activity he or she needs that day to burn off the excess calories.

For those whose food selections are below their calorie requirements, the CYBERKitchen offers a selection of snack options to reach the person’s calorie targets without exceeding fat limits. And since the calorie goal for each day is adjustable, the website also allows the visitor to "bank" uneaten calories on a given day so he or she can "spend" them another day at a party or when going out to dinner. Completing the process, the website provides the visitor with the recipes and a shopping list of the ingredients for an easy reference.

"The CYBERKitchen informs individuals on a personal level about weight management and in a way that directly affects their lives," said Dr. Moore. "Through this new and valuable tool, Americans will be able to translate into real-life terms the important government recommendation to balance the food we eat with physical activity."

Designed for use by consumers, nutrition educators, health professionals and the media, the CYBERKitchen was developed by a team of Shape Up America! professionals including the organization’s cyberspace chef, Lisa Schroeder, formerly with Le Cirque restaurant and currently with Lespinasse restaurant. Besides being low in fat and calories, the 21 breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes provide options for vegetarians and for consumers who need to stretch a food budget.

The X-FACTOR Survey was conducted by Louis Harris and Associates, using a nationally representative sample of 2,000 overweight adults aged 18 and over. This telephone survey was fielded between February 21 and March 6, 1997.

Shape Up America! is the national campaign spearheaded by Dr. C. Everett Koop and led by Dr. Barbara Moore to elevate healthy weight and increased physical activity as priority concerns. A nationwide network of over 50 organizations, representing the leading associations in the fields of medicine, public health, nutrition, and physical activity provide support for this new initiative.

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