Sticking to a diet can be tough, but researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found that doing a test run before the actual program may increase your chances of maintaining a healthy weight even after your diet supposedly ends.

The study, which was featured on ScienceDaily.com, included 267 overweight women who were separated into two groups. The first acted as the control group and immediately started a 20-week behavioral weight-loss program, which required a steady intake of vegetables and fruit, an increase in physical activity, and diet journaling.

On the other hand, the second group learned weight stability skills for eight weeks before taking on the weight-loss program. They were encouraged to search for low-calorie food that tasted as good as their fat-heavy counterparts to avoid feeling deprived. They also sometimes indulged in their favorite treats in order to see how their weight fluctuated depending on what they ate. These were conducted along with other exercises, so that participants would be able to adjust to certain dietary and lifestyle situations and still maintain a healthy weight.

After both groups have finished with the 20-week program, the participants were left to their own devices. When the researchers got back to them the following year, they found that those who participated in the weight maintenance activities prior to undergoing the weight loss program only gained three pounds, while those who went ahead with the program gained an average of seven pounds.

Although diet programs are generally effective, it’s really important to first know how your body works. It’s like preparing for an exam--you review before you jump in. Instead of shocking your body into a diet, ease into it by looking for great food alternatives that won’t make you feel short-changed. Also, try to do a little research--once you get to know your body more, it’ll be easier to make healthy adjustments.

(Photo by Frank Kovalchek via Flickr Creative Commons)

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