According to a recent study by Mayo Clinic, less than 3% of American adults adhere to a "healthy lifestyle" – defined as engaging in physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week; having a Healthy Index Score in the top 40%; having a body fat percentage below 20% for men, and below 30% for women; as well as abstaining from smoking.
Conversely, every year or so, there seems to be another diet fad sweeping America – from Atkins to paleo to gluten-free. According to ABC News, nearly $20 billion dollars were spent by 108 million dieters in 2012. And yet, the United States remains a predominantly overweight nation, having the highest proportion of obese people despite only representing 5% of the world's population, according to HealthData.org.
Read more: 5 Healthy Habits You Should Adopt Right Now
Perhaps part of the problem is the misconception (or semantics) between diet and healthy lifestyle. Writing for SFGate, clinical dietician Janet Renee explains that diets "temporarily [change] your eating habits to promote a certain outcome – commonly weight loss – before returning to your previous eating habits." On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle is geared toward longterm weight management and maintenance.
This distinction is ultimately rooted in behavior: "Diets focus on food intake," Renee writes. "Lifestyle changes incorporate what you eat along with other factors that affect weight and health, such as physical activity." When it comes to weight loss, Renee says "a diet provides a temporary solution and singular approach to a multifaceted, long-term health issue."
Ultimately, while adopting a healthy lifestyle is a given, Renee also recommends setting realistic and sustainable goals in lieu of temporary "quick fixes."