The best weight loss technique is to keep a simple note of what you are eating, research finds.
Two other critical pieces of advice are to avoid eating in restaurants and to eat regular meals.
Skipping meals has even been linked to weight gain.
Following all three pieces of advice together could mean losing 20 pounds more.
The conclusions come from a study of 123 overweight women who went on a year-long weight loss program.
Dr Anne McTiernan, who led the study, explained the key finding:
“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.”
Dr McTiernan added that a food diary doesn’t have to be fancy:
“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.
Any notebook or pad of paper that is easily carried or an online program that can be accessed any time through a smartphone or tablet should work fine.”
The results showed that keeping a food diary was linked to losing six more pounds over the year of the study.
Skipping meals was linked to losing 8 fewer pounds.
Dr McTiernan thinks this could enhance cravings:
“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.
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.”
Women in the study lost an average of 10% of their body weight, which was the goal.
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The study was published in the journal Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Kong et al., 2012).