With the abundance of weight loss tips available today, it’s hard to figure out what would work for you. Or at least it was, until researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center decided to take a look at a wide array of self-monitoring options, diet-related behaviors, and eating patterns in obese and overweight postmenopausal women. In the study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they identified the most effective strategies, namely: keeping a food journal, not skipping meals, and not eating out, especially for lunch.

"When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomized, controlled trials comparing different diets finds that restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate,” says team leader Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, who serves as director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center and as a member of its Public Health Sciences Division. "Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction."

The team found that keeping a food journal helped women lose around 6 more pounds than women who didn’t do this. Not skipping meals, on the other hand, had women losing 8 pounds more. And, compared to women who lunched out at least once a week, women who ate in for lunch lost about 5 pounds more. It was noted, though, that while lunching out showed the most significant difference in weight loss achievements, eating out for breakfast and dinner were also associated with less weight lost.

Dr. McTiernan says, "For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating."

The researchers also advise you do the following while keeping a food journal to help ensure success:

  • Be thorough and list details related to food preparations and any extras (like condiments, gravy, and so on) you take with your meals.
  • Be honest about what you’re really eating—don’t cheat and leave anything out.
  • Be accurate in your reporting of portion sizes and label details.
  • Be consistent in recording your food consumption; keep the diary with you at all times (you can even maintain it on your mobile device) so you won’t forget.

(Photo by Gail M. Tang via Flickr Creative Commons)

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