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Three simple weight-loss strategies that work
July 13th, 2012
07:30 AM ET

Three simple weight-loss strategies that work

Cutting back on calories is the cornerstone of any successful weight-loss plan, but as dieters can attest, that's easier said than done.

So it's encouraging to learn that three simple strategies can provide a boost: Eat regular meals, write down everything you eat, and avoid restaurants and takeout at lunchtime.

These three habits were each linked to greater weight loss in a new study of 123 overweight and obese middle-aged women, all of whom managed to shed at least a few pounds over a one-year period.

Women who reliably ate breakfast, lunch and dinner lost an average of 11% of their body weight, compared to just 7% among women who skipped meals. (That's equivalent to a 5-foot, 6-inch woman who weighs 180 pounds losing 20 pounds instead of 13.)

Health.com: 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day

Methodically keeping a food journal was associated with losing roughly 4% more body weight. And women who never ate restaurant lunches lost 3% more body weight than those who did so at least once a week - probably due to super-size restaurant portions and less-than-healthy dishes, the researchers say.

"Knowing what you eat and controlling the portion sizes is key to any weight-loss diet," says Anne McTiernan, M.D., the senior author of the study and a diet and exercise specialist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.

Strategies such as food journals are "about accountability," McTiernan adds.

Other behaviors in the study that appeared to boost weight loss included consuming fewer calories from fat and carbohydrates and weighing and measuring food portions.

Health.com: Little ways to lose big pounds

None of these findings was especially surprising. Doctors and dietitians have long touted the benefits of regular meals, food journals, and home cooking, but the new study is among the first to look at a wide range of weight-loss strategies and quantify which ones are most effective, McTiernan says.

Why does skipping meals backfire? It's not entirely clear, but research suggests missed meals can lead to snacking and overeating, and may even change the body's metabolism so that calories aren't used as efficiently. Skipping meals also may go hand in hand with other behaviors that can promote weightgain, such as eating on the go.

Although the three healthful habits highlighted in the study might seem straightforward, they may prove harder to follow in the real world than in the somewhat artificial setting of a clinical trial.

Health.com: 5 habits of highly successful dieters

The women in this study were all part of a larger trial looking at the effect of diet and exercise on hormones, and they received weight-loss guidance not always available to women struggling with weight issues on their own. This included meeting with a registered dietician and exercise physiologist and also learning how to read labels and count calories.

As it was, less than 5% of the study participants completed a food journal entry every day for the first six months of the study, as the researchers had asked.

The study findings were published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Nadine

    Thanks for the comments! Losing weight is such a self satisfying feeling! You look better, think better and just feel good about being healthier and being able to do the things you want to do. Keep up the good work!!

    July 26, 2012 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Freddy

      Ummm . . . I would look that up hahah . But I know that you could lose 5 10 pounds a week by ericxizeng, eating right(Its ok to have a snake now and then) and drink LOTS of water :*)

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    AHH! This is so frustrating. Cutting calories IS NOT THE WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT! It is NOT about how much you eat but rather the quality of what you are eating. If one wants to shed weight and be healthier they need to drop these from their diet: sugar, grains (wheat, bread, rice, pasta), processed meats, beans, legumes and starch (potato, ect). What you SHOULD be eating (even though we have been misled otherwise) is GRASS FED beef, eggs (yes the yolk too), lots of veggies, some fruit, squash and other unprocessed foods. Cutting processed foods out of your diet as much as possible is HUGE. I highly suggest the book Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. I highly suggest the audio book. I know a lot of what I listed to NOT eat is confusing. Wheat and grains have no business in our body, nor does grain fed beef.

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.