Good behaviours for weight loss

Still looking for that magic weight loss formula? A new study, published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, adds some evidence around behaviours that may help keep you on track. And, while it’s not magic, the behaviours they identified are all strategies that I would advocate in my practice and that are great helps when it comes to fighting this ongoing problem.


The study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle looked at self-monitoring and diet related behaviours in a group of overweight and obese post-menopausal women who were part of a 12 month weight loss trial.


After looking at the data they collected, the study authors suggest that women who want to lose weight should keep a food journal, avoid skipping meals and eating out (especially at lunch).


They found that :

Women who kept food journals consistently lost about six pounds more than those who did not

Women who reported skipping meals lost about eight fewer pounds than women who did not

Women who ate out for lunch at least weekly lost on average five fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently. Eating out frequently for all meals resulted in less weight loss but the strongest association was with lunch.


So let’s look at these three strategies in a bit more detail:

Keeping a food journal is a strategy that has consistently been shown to be effective for weight loss and weight maintenance. And, while it is something that many people resist doing, if you persist, it can give great results.


Why a journal? It helps you become aware of your eating behaviours and helps you track your progress. You can see more clearly exactly what you eat as well as some of your behaviour patterns, and also helps you identify mindless eating”¦that nibble here, nibble there, that can contribute so many “unaware” calories. With this information, you can develop strategies to help you change.


How to do it? There are lots of tools you can use. Some people carry a little notebook with them, some set it up on their computer or smart phone and there are even some apps that have journals already set up. Many of my clients use My Fitness Pal or Lose It! The most important part of the exercise is to do it consistently, honestly and non-judgmentally so you will gain the real benefit.


Eating out is challenging because the portions tend to be larger, there is so much hidden fat, sodium and calories and there are always extras like the side of fries, the bread on the table or the calorie-laden salad dressings. If taking lunch is not an easy option, look around at where you eat and pick the healthiest choices on the menu. Visit the restaurant’s website and pick the healthiest options or skip the fried foods, have dressings on the side, ask them to hold the sauces. If you are eating with friends and the portions are large, share an order or order an appetizer size.


Try to get in the habit of bringing some lunches to the office. If you have leftovers from the night before, pack them up to go. Or, if you are making sandwiches for the kids, make an extra for yourself. It doesn’t have to be everyday but you’ll find as you get into it that you can make healthier meals and also save money.


Eat at least three times a day and don’t skip meals. Skipping meals is never a good idea. Most people later in the day more than make up for the skipped meal in terms of calories and it has never been shown to assist with weight loss. If you tend to skip lunch because it’s busy at work, put a reminder on your computer or phone that will tell you to stop and take some time to eat.

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