Women who want to lose weight should faithfully keep a food journal, and avoid skipping meals and eating lunch in restaurants suggests new research from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
This is the first study to look at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring and meal patterns on weight change among overweight and obese postmenopausal women. The aim of the study was to identify behaviors that supported the goal of calorie reduction.
The researchers found that:
- Women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not
- Women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not
- Women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average 5 fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently (eating out often at all meal times was associated with less weight loss, but the strongest association was observed with lunch)
For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the number one piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. Study participants were given the following tips for keeping a food journal:
- Be honest -- record everything you eat
- Be accurate -- measure portions, read labels
- Be complete -- include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments
- Be consistent -- always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smart phone
Another good weight-loss strategy is to eat at regular intervals and avoid skipping meals. Skipping meals or fasting might cause you to respond more favorably to high-calorie foods and therefore take in more calories overall. The researchers also think skipping meals might cluster together with other behaviors. For instance, the lack of time and effort spent on planning and preparing meals may lead a person to skip meals and/or eat out more.
Eating out frequently, another factor associated with less weight loss, may be a barrier for making healthful dietary choices. "Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes," the authors wrote.
The analysis was based on data from 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, Seattle-area women, ages 50 to 75, who were randomly assigned to two arms of a year-long weight-loss intervention study. At the end of the study, participants in both arms lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight, which was the goal of the intervention.
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, July 2012
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