Study: Keep a journal and do not skip meals to shed pounds

Study: Keep a journal and do not skip meals to shed pounds


Need to lose weight?

A newly released study, published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lays out a series of rules that may have those seeking to shed a few extra pounds this summer.

The report notes that individuals seeking to lose weight should, among other things, keep a food journal and skip afternoon lunch dates.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center evaluated the impact of self-monitoring and diet-related behavior and patterns among overweight and obese post-menopausal women. Researchers noted that those keeping food journals lost about six more pounds than those who did not.

“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 Dr. Anne McTiernan, who led the study. “Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviours that supported the global goal of calorie reduction.”

Researchers also discovered that those skipping meals did not see a greater rate of success, rather skipping meals seems to have lowered a woman’s chances of losing weight. Researchers say recording one’s caloric intake instead of skipping meals seems to have had a greater impact.

“Most of the women were very surprised at what they were eating,” said McTiernan. “When they went through the process of doing their journals and met with a dietitian, they were really surprised at how many extra calories they were taking in.”

And while researchers suggest not skipping meals, the report notes that reducing the number of restaurant meals may have an impact. Women lunching out at least once a week lost on average 5 pounds less than those who chose to eat at home, say researchers.

The results of the study will come as little surprise for those who have already attempted to lose weight in the past. Even less surprising, the report does emphasize a number of traditional courses of lowering one’s weight, including exercise and eating well, of course.

Exercise is “critical,” McTiernan says, but more important for maintenance, helping avoid the loss of muscle mass. For losing weight, the calories were key, she said.

The report comes as the U.S. continues to witness a growing problem related to obesity. Researchers say the study is meant to increase awareness of the most effective means of losing weight, and how best manage caloric intake.

“This study highlights the important strategies for maintaining weight loss over time, including self-monitoring through [food diaries], regular eating patterns and a healthy food environment [by minimizing eating out),” said Dr. Anne N. Thorndike, of Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the study.

For those interested in keeping a food journal, researchers say the study yielded some effective tips: be honest – record everything you eat; be accurate – measure portions, read labels; be complete – include details such as how the food was prepared, including addition of any toppings or condiments; and, be consistent.

The study has been published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.