July 13, 2012
Lose Weight By Keeping A Food Journal
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Women who want to lose weight should keep a food journal every day, not skip meals and not eat in restaurants — especially at lunch — suggests new research from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The research results by Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues — the first study looked at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring and diet-related behaviors and meal patterns on weight change among overweight and obese postmenopausal women — are published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the Journal of the American Dietetic Association).
"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. Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction," McTiernan said.
Specifically, McTiernan and colleagues found that:
· Women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not
· Women who reported skipping meals lost almost 8 fewer pounds than women who did not
· Women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average 5 fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently (eating out often at all meal times was associated with less weight loss, but the strongest association was observed with lunch)
"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," said McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Center's Prevention Center and a member of its Public Health Sciences Division.
Study participants were given the following tips for keeping a food journal:
· Be honest — record everything you eat
· Be accurate — measure portions, read labels
· Be complete — include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments
· Be consistent — always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smart phone
"While the study provided a printed booklet for the women to record their food and beverage consumption, a food journal doesn't have to be anything fancy," McTiernan said. "Any notebook or pad of paper that is easily carried or an online program that can be accessed any time through a smart phone or tablet should work fine."
In addition to writing down every morsel that passes their lips, another good weight-loss strategy is to eat at regular intervals and not skip meals. "The mechanism is not completely clear, but we think that skipping meals or fasting might cause you to respond more favorably to high-calorie foods and therefore take in more calories overall," she said. "We also think skipping meals might cluster together with other behaviors. For instance, the lack of time and effort spent on planning and preparing meals may lead a person to skip meals and/or eat out more."
Eating out frequently, which is another factor associated with less weight loss, may be an obstruction for making healthy dietary choices. "Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes," the authors wrote.
The investigation was based on data from 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, Seattle-area women, ages 50 to 75, who were assigned to two arms of a controlled, randomized study over a 1 year period: diet only and exercise plus diet. Study participants filled out a series of questionnaires to assess dietary intake, eating-related weight-control strategies, self-monitoring behaviors and meal patterns. They were also asked to complete a 120-item food-frequency questionnaire to assess dietary change from the beginning to the end of the study.
At the end of the study, participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight, which was the goal of the intervention.
"We think our findings are promising because it shows that basic strategies such as maintaining food journals, eating out less often and eating at regular intervals are simple tools that postmenopausal women — a group commonly at greater risk for weight gain — can use to help them lose weight successfully," McTiernan said.