What 100 million food logs from Indian women reveal: a lack of self-control

Working out well?
Working out well?
Image: Reuters/Krishnendu Halder
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Indian women don’t have the best food habits, but when it comes to fitness regimes, they’re largely on track.

While women in the country manage to keep their fat consumption in check during meal times, they’re ”unable to retain self-control when it comes to snacks,” said a report by diet and fitness tracking platform HealthifyMe. Between February 2017 and February 2018, there was a 7% increase in fat consumption from snacks among Indian women, the report noted, adding that biscuits, french fries, chocolate, chocolate cake, and gulab jamun (an Indian confectionery) were the major culprits.

The six-year-old Bengaluru-based startup analysed 100 million food logs and 25 million workout logs on its app from over two million woman users spread across over 220 Indian cities. The data shared exclusively with Quartz reveal the good and the bad of how Indian women are keeping fit.

Not eating well…

Fruit consumption among Indian women fell nearly 30% since last year, the report said, and they’re also eating fewer vegetables. So fibre content in women’s food intake fell from 1.8% in February 2017 to around 1.3% a year on. Cutting back on these fibrous foods puts women at higher risk of diabetes, the report says.

…but staying fit

“Women have started walking and running materially more this year compared to last,” the report says. On average, Indian women now take 18,000 steps per week, a 30% jump compared to 14,000 from a year ago.

They are also burning up to 1,750 kilocalories (kcal) per week, 30% more than last year’s 1,400 kcal.

In terms of physical activity, household chores took a backseat, while fitness exercises like planks, crunches, and squats climbed up over 30%. Bicycling has risen almost 100%.

Who’s winning?

State of fitness: At five days a week, women from Haryana work out most frequently compared to women from any other state. This is perhaps reflected in the fact that despite having India’s worst sex ratio, the northern state has nurtured many of the country’s female athletes, like woman wrestler Sakshi Malik who nabbed the bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, while Haryana is the most committed, it is not home to the fittest women. Chandigarh women display the highest endurance levels, taking 17,000 steps per week, while Karnataka’s burn the most calories at 1,600 kcal per week.

The curious case of women aged 50+: An age-wise breakdown reveals that the youngest women aren’t necessarily the fittest. The older age group of 50-55 years tends to burn the highest amount of calories on average and also takes the highest number of steps per week.

Battle of the sexes: Though men are biologically capable of burning more calories per unit of time spent working out than women, the progress made by the two genders over the last year was comparable.

Both almost doubled their steps taken per week from the previous year. Men went from around 9,600 steps to over 19,000 and women walked 13,750 steps as against 6,700 a year ago.

During the same period, both sexes recorded an almost equal 35% increase in calories burned per week.