There’s a lot of noise about how to lose weight: Your friends say do this or try that. The magazine your reading suggests the latest celebrity detox diet is the way to reach your goal. But the science says that just a few small tweaks to your diet and lifestyle can add up to big results.
Losing weight is not simple but it’s also not that complicated. You don’t need to do make sweeping changes to your diet and lifestyle to lose weight. Generally, small changes to your daily habits are best to help you win at losing.
A recent study from the University of Minnesota examined the diet and activity behaviors of more than 400 adults who had lost at least 10% of their body weight in the year prior to the start of the study.
The subjects were asked questions such as, how many times during the past week they 1) ate breakfast, 2) ate lunch, 3) ate dinner, 4) ate after 7 p.m., 5) ate a snack while watching TV, 6) ate a meal while watching TV, 7) ate food at work 8) ate at a fast food or sit-down restaurant, 9) bought food from a gas station or C-store.
In addition, subjects reported how often they weigh themselves. They also reported how often they 1) write down the calorie content of the foods they eat, 2) write down the amount and type of exercise they do, 3) use meal-replacement products to manage weight, 4) plan their meals to manage their weight, and 5) plan their exercise to manage their weight using the response options: never, rarely, sometimes, often, and very often.
The results found four habits were most predictive of weight loss and maintenance success. The four habits included:
Eat Three Squares Every Day
Eating a breakfast, lunch and dinner daily is considered a “normalized” eating pattern and is preferred to keep your energy levels and hunger hormones stable. If you skip meals, you’ll only eat more later in the day and going for more than 3-4 hours without eating will make you crave high-calorie, high-fat foods that are low in nutrition (aka: junk food).
Limit TV Watching & Screen Time
Those who limit hours in front of the tube have leaner physiques. Those who watched the most TV also had higher fat and sugar intake in their diet. Not only is TV full of food advertising that makes us want to eat, people often get into the bad habit of eating treats and unhealthy snack foods while watching their favorite programs. Also, the more time you spend watching TV means the less free time you have to be active.
Make Your Meals
Subjects in the study that ate out most frequently were also the most likely to be overweight. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fast food joint or a 4-star establishment, when we eat out, we eat more calories. More eating away from home was related to greater fat and sugar intake, lower fruit and vegetable intake, and less physical activity.
See some of our healthy recipes for inspiration. They’re quick and simple so anyone can make them.
Keep Tabs on Your Weight and Have Strategies at the Ready
Subjects who reported that they weighed themselves regularly and kept tabs on what and how they were eating and their exercise habits were most likely to win at losing. And in these cases, no special products, diet plans or programs were needed. You have everything you need to help yourself
Greater use of weight control strategies was most consistently related to better weight, diet, and physical activity outcomes.
Eat regular meals, limit time spent watching TV and don’t eat while watching the tube or doing anything else for that matter. Limit eating out to no more than two meals a week and try your best to think about what you’re about to eat or considering eating and whether or not it’s really worth the calories or if you can “afford” it.
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–Julie Upton, MS, RD