Adhering to small easy changes in eating habits leads to weight-loss

Weight-loss tips have to be customised for the individual and s/he has to stick to them for sufficiently long. Dieting as in starving may not be as much significant

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Eating right—rather than dieting—for sustained period of time is key to weight-loss

Many a weight-loss initiatives have not reached the success, at least not to the satisfaction of the person who started on it. But success may be just a question of sticking to some very basic changes in eating habits, according to research by Professor Brian Wansink in Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. Of course the key challenge is to identify these small changes that are unique to the person who wishes to lose weight and enabling the him/her to be be consistent in implementing the changes.

Cornell researchers started the National Mindless Eating Challenge [NMEC], an online healthy-eating and weight-loss programme that focused on simple eating behaviour changes, instead of dieting.

NMEC participants were sent three customized tips to follow for a month depending on their answers to questions about eating goals, background and wellbeing, . All tips were based on Wansink's book "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think" [Bantam, 2006]. Participants had downloadable checklist to track adherence to tips and and they were sent email reminders to help them stay on track. At the end of each month they were expected to filled in a follow-up survey. Of the 504 participants who completed at least one follow-up survey, more than two thirds [42 percent] either lost weight or maintained their weight [27 percent].

Weight loss was highest among those who could make changes on a consistent basis. Those who could stick to the plan for 25 or more days every month had an average monthly weight loss of two pounds.

According to the study, [published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research ] obstacles faced by participants included personally unsuitable tips, forgetting, being too busy, unusual circumstances such as vacations and emotional eating.

"These results confirm that small, consistent changes in our daily eating behavior can result in gradual weight loss and in developing healthier eating habits," said Wansink, a marketing professor in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Results of the study also showed many people find it difficult to stick to a programme for an extended period of time. For those who want to lose weight or eat more healthy, the researchers suggest that finding an initial set of relevant doable tips is important and having achieved that they can then learn the basic principles.

The NMEC participants found the following tips most effective :

  • Keep counters clear of all foods but the healthy ones.
  • Never eat directly from a package – always portion food out onto a dish.
  • Eat something hot for breakfast within the first hour of waking up.
  • Avoid going more than thee or four hours without having something small to eat.
  • Put down your utensils between bites to slow down your eating.

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