Women in the study who were most successful at losing weight kept track of their food intake in a journal, didn’t skip meals and avoided eating out, especially for lunch.
“Our study was unique in that it looked at a large array of weight-loss behaviors to see what worked and what didn’t,” said study researcher Dr. Anne McTiernan, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “We were surprised at how much of a difference using food journals and eating at home made,” McTiernan said.
In the study, women who cultivated each of these habits lost five to eight pounds more than women who didn’t engage in these practices.
“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.
Thorndike said she was not surprised by the three habits that led to the greatest success. “These findings really mirror what I see in clinical practice,” she said.
Three simple rules?
McTiernan and colleagues tracked the habits of 123 participants between ages 50 and 75, who were part of a larger Nutrition and Exercise for Women study. During the year-long study, the participants lost, on average, 10 percent of their body weight.
The researchers found that women who kept diligent food logs lost about six more pounds than those who did not keep a food diary.
“We found that the better women in our study were at consistently writing down everything they ate and drank, the more weight they were able to lose,” McTiernan said.