Most middle-class Indians believe dieting is pointless

Cheat year.
Cheat year.
Image: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
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Look out, new year’s diets: Indians will only go so far when it comes to giving up their favourite dishes.

If they had to choose between eating good food and being thin, 77% of Indians would choose the former, says a study on food habits by Ipsos, a global market research company.

Ipsos conducted an online survey of around 1,000 urban, upwardly mobile Indians between late August and early September last year. The company emphasises that the sample can’t be extrapolated to all Indians, but it does represent “a more affluent, connected population, representing an important and emerging middle class.” The study’s results reveal that good eating is of prime importance to India’s middle class, and that dieting has limited traction with them, too.

Around 74% of survey respondents, Ipsos found, are happy with their current weight. And while 57% of them said that they have tried cutting calories to shed some pounds, even more—59%—believe that “most diet plans ultimately fail.”

Even when Indians do watch their weight, it’s because of how much they like food: 67% of respondents said the only reason they exercise is so that they can eat what they like.

“…there is no stereotypical Indian consumer,” Rinku Patnaik, chief client officer of Ipsos India, said in a press release about the study’s results. “And there is no point in body-shaming her. She will not stop eating to appease the spiel of brands.”

Organic boom

In addition to attitudes towards diet and exercise, Ipsos looked at Indians’ attitudes towards different types of food. A surprising number of respondents—57%—claim they eat organic food.

This is far more than those in the developed world that Ipsos has also surveyed, in other country-specific portions of the same study. Only 12% of respondents from the UK and 13% from Japan, for example, claimed they eat organic.

Over half of Indians polled, 56%, said they would be fine eating vegetarian or vegan. “Globally the trend is the reverse,” Ipsos noted in the press release. “Across all markets polled, people prefer a diet that includes some type of meat.”

One thing Indians are not happy with, however, is genetically modified food. Ipsos found 65% of Indian respondents were opposed to eating food made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Future eats

Ipsos also studied what Indians expect their food habits to be over the next year.

At least 47% were optimistic that food prices will improve in future, giving them access to more food. Similarly, 59% expected the future to hold healthier eating options.

When it comes to expectations for meal preparation habits, results were split: While 48% of Indians expected to cook at home more, 28% expected to eat out more than they did last year.