A new study on behaviors that aid weight loss found keeping a food journal is number one

Proof: Keeping a Food Journal Aids Weight Loss

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.

A NEW STUDY ON BEHAVIORS THAT AID WEIGHT LOSS FOUND KEEPING A FOOD JOURNAL IS NUMBER ONE

When it comes to weight loss, any diet that results in caloric reduction will do the job. But if you’re looking for the best results, keeping a food journal can make the difference. That, along with not skipping meals or eating lunch at restaurants too often.

Those are some of the findings from new research done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The aim of the study was to identify behaviors that support caloric reduction in a population of sedentary, obese and overweight postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 75.

The researchers monitored 123 women for one year who were randomly assigned to either the ‘diet only’ arm of the study or the ‘exercise plus diet’ option. They looked at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring strategies, diet-related behaviors and meal patterns on weight change in the subjects.

At the end of the study participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight. But those who kept food records lost the most — approximately 6 pounds more than women who did not keep records.

Skipping meals also affected results. Women who skipped the most meals lost about 8 pounds less than those who did not skip. Going out for lunch was another behavior that impacted weight loss. Those who ate lunch out in a restaurant at least once a week lost about 5 pounds less than those who went out for lunch less often. Eating out regularly for breakfast or supper were also linked to less weight loss, but lunch had the biggest difference on weight.

This research reinforces something I have seen work over and over again in my clinical practice. Throughout the 25 years I was seeing clients, those who keep the best food records lost the most weight and kept it off the longest – women and men, young and old alike. I’ve included this advice in my blogs, too.

Where you keep your record does not matter. It can be done in a simple blank note pad or detailed food journal template, in a computer tracking program or voice activated phone app. What matters is what you report.

Tips for Keeping a Food Journal

Honesty: Record everything you put into your mouth and swallow. Don’t leave out anything whether it was just a nibble or had no calories, like a diet drink. Make it your goal to record everything you eat and drink, period.

Accuracy: Get quantifiable information about the amount you are eating or drinking whenever you can by measuring or weighing the portion you take, counting the items, or reading the label to determine what is the serving size. The more you do this, the better you will be at estimating when you have to.

Thoroughness: Include descriptive information about how the food was prepared, what condiments were used, any sauces or gravy added, and any special features such as low fat, reduced sodium, sugar free, etc. Ask questions when eating out if you’re not sure how something was made or what it was made with.

Consistency: Continue your record-keeping when you are away from home so you can enter information as soon as you eat or drink something, even if you must use the back of a receipt until you can transfer it to your permanent record. Don’t rely on your memory.

I have been keeping a food journal every day since I was in college studying to become a dietitian and my weight has not changed other than when I was pregnant. Has anyone else been keeping a food journal that long?

Parents can play a major role in preventing childhood obesity

Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Every Parent Should Know

This post was written as a guest blog for Family Goes Strong. You can read the original post here.

PARENTS CAN PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN PREVENTING CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the United States over the past 30 years. It affects children in every state and from every socioeconomic group. As of 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. were overweight or obese.

When a problem becomes that prevalent there is a danger of not taking it as seriously as we should. But the risks of obesity are too great to ignore. Preventing excess weight gain in children may be the most important way we can protect their health and quality of life.

With more than 30 years of experience helping families deal with childhood obesity, I know there is no simple solution to this problem. But there are some things every parent should know as they consider their options.

5 Things You Need to Know About Childhood Obesity

1. Your child’s relationship with food is established in the first five years of life

When solid foods are first introduced to a child between the ages of 4 and 6 months, they begin their relationship with food. For the next year parents must learn to interpret the subtle signals their children use to express how hungry they are and what they like until they can tell you themselves. The goal is to allow the child’s internal sensation of hunger to govern how often and how much they eat. Their evolving taste preferences should allow them to accept and refuse different foods without threat of punishment or reward. If this is done consistently, in an eating environment where no bias or judgment is expressed about any food, children will grow to trust their feelings of hunger and appetite by the time they start school.

2. What is eaten at home is more important than what is served at school

Children spend far more time eating at home or out with their parents than they do in school. What children experience during meals with their family is far more important than the institutional feeding that goes on in schools. If parents don’t like the selections available on school menus, they can pack a lunch for their child to eat instead. But if a child is being exposed to new foods in the cafeteria that are not available at home, they have no choice but to eat what is served at home.

3. Weight loss in parents is the biggest predictor of children’s weight loss

A recent study looked at 80 parent-child sets with an overweight or obese 8-12 year old in each. The participants were assigned to one of three different programs to help their child lose weight. Features of the three programs included having the parents change the home food environment, limit what the child ate, and lose weight themselves. The researchers found parents’ weight loss was the only significant predictor of children’s weight loss. These results are consistent with other research showing how important the example set by parents is to successful weight loss in their children.

4. Genetics are a factor in obesity, but age of onset is more important

There is no test we can take at birth to tell us who will become overweight or obese as an adult. If one or both parents are obese, that does increase a child’s risk of also becoming obese, but it is not inevitable. Research from the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center of Cincinnati found that being obese during the teen years is a stronger indicator of who will be obese in adulthood than being obese in early childhood, regardless of whether the parents were obese. Preventing obesity in adolescents is one of the best ways to prevent obesity in adults.

5. Treat overweight and obesity in your child as a health concern, not an image problem

All children need to learn how the food they eat and their level of activity can affect their health. The conversation should be the same for an overweight child and one who is not, just like talking about the importance of wearing seatbelts and getting immunized. When the focus is on staying healthy, not appearance, your child is less likely to develop emotional issues about their weight.

Lessons learned during weight loss hold key to success

Changing Lifestyle is Key to Successful Weight Control

Research shows losing weight and keeping it off requires changes in lifestyle

Losing weight is difficult, very difficult. No matter what diet program, product or procedure is used to shed excess pounds, people have tremendous resistance to changing their routines and doing something different. I could argue that no matter what the reasons are that people have gained weight, they all share the same reason for having trouble losing it. People hate change.

Eating is a habit, which is one reason it’s so hard to change, but another is that it’s part of a lifestyle. And your lifestyle is shaped by where you live and work, how much money you have, who you spend your time with, and what you know, like, believe. If you want to change what and how much you eat and how often you exercise, it is going to require major changes in your lifestyle.

Knowing what needs to be done to lose weight is rarely the problem. All of my clients are able to tell me what they need to do differently. They say they know they should eat breakfast, take smaller portions, limit their snacks, exercise more, double-up on vegetables and switch to low fat, but they have a hard time sticking to those suggestions. Even just one.

That is because, for example, to eat breakfast every day you have to shop regularly to be sure you have food in the house, get up a little earlier, be able to prepare something you like and is good for you, make your own coffee, and clean up after yourself. Getting up earlier is a big enough hurdle for most people; making sure you have cereal, milk and a banana can be insurmountable!

Why, then, is it possible for some people to change their lifestyle and lose weight? The answers can be found in the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR).

First a few words about the Registry, my favorite source of inspiration. It is a voluntary group made up of over 5000 people who have lost anywhere from 30 -300 pounds and kept it off for five years or more. That’s all it takes to be a member.

Several common traits have been identified among the NWCR participants to help us understand what has worked for them and might help others. They are listed below.

The one thing you won’t find on the list is what made them do it. Cultural anthropologist Inga Treitler, Ph.D. conducted extensive interviews with ten of the registrants to see if she could figure that out. What she found is they all experienced an inner transformation which resulted in their abandoning their former lifestyles and being “reborn” into a new one. In essence, they found a reason to change that made living in their new lifestyle easier than the old.

It all begins with the right reason.

TOP TEN TRAITS FROM WEIGHT CONTROL REGISTRY45% lost the weight on their own

10. 55% lost the weight with the help of a program

9. 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week

8. 74% weigh themselves at least once a week

7. 78% eat breakfast every day

6. 80% are women, 20% are men

5. 90% exercise an average of 1 hour a day

4. 94% increased their physical activity, walking was the most common activity

2. 98% modified their food intake in some way, most by controlling calories and fat

1. 100% found a reason to change their lifestyle

Here’s what has helped me keep my weight in control for the past 40 years.

Getting Motivated to Eat Right

Eating and weight loss contests and cooking shows fill the airwaves while Americans grow fatter.

Competitive Eating, Cooking Shows and Weight Loss Contests – What’s Wrong with This Picture?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013 so the blog has been reproduced here.

TV SHOWS FOCUSED ON EATING, COOKING AND DIETING HAVE INCREASED ALONG WITH OBESITY

There are three things going on in this country that I believe have contributed to the obesity epidemic by redirecting our attention away from eating as a way to nourish and sustain us and turning it into a form of entertainment, a spectator sport, a chance for chef’s, coaches and trainers to become celebrities. They are Competitive Eating, Cooking Shows and Weight Loss Contests. Let me explain.

Competitive Eating

The International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) is the governing body for Major League Eating (MLE), an organization that oversees all professional eating contests. The MLE hosts more than 80 competitive eating events worldwide every year and provides “dramatic audience entertainment” for their sport and an “unparalleled platform for media exposure.”

According to their website, MLE promotions generate more than one billion consumer impressions worldwide annually. They say the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest alone generates more than 300 million consumer impressions on domestic television in just a few weeks.

Some other MLE sanctioned contest results that caught my eye were:

  • 7 quarter-pounds sticks of Salted Butter in 5 minutes
  • 17.7 pounds of cow brains in 15 minutes
  • 49 Glazed Doughnuts in 8 minutes
  • 36 Peanut Butter and Banana sandwiches in 10 minutes
  • 6 pounds of SPAM from the can in 12 minutes

Cooking Shows

Thousands of cooking shows have been aired on American television since James Beard hosted the first postwar TV cooking show called I Love to Eat in 1946. Julia Child’s The French Chef was one of the longest running cooking shows, broadcast from February 11 1963 to 1973. Reruns continue to air on the Cooking Channel. Then in 1993 the Food Network made its debut and since then has created over 300 different food, restaurant and cooking shows.

The Food Network programming is now seen in more than ninety million households and includes number-crunching shows like $40 a Day, 30 Minute Meals, 5 Ingredient Fix and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. In 2005 the reality contest The Next Food Network Star made its appearance, pitting viewers against one another for the chance to have their own cooking show.

Weight Loss Contests

The Biggest Loser premiered on October 19, 2004 with 12 contestants vying for a $250,000 Grand Prize. On September 20, 2011 the show kicked off Season 12 with 15 contestants competing in a “Battle of the Ages” that groups them by age for the first time. Hundreds of contestants have lost weight and won a few moments of notoriety in between.

The series is now an international hit, produced in 25 countries and aired in 90. The Biggest Loser has also become a “lifestyle brand” made up of merchandise and services inspired by the show and promoted through its subscription-based online diet and exercise extension at www.biggestloser.com. Spending on these consumer products has generated over $300 million through 25,000 major retailers.

A newer entry in the television weight loss genre is Heavy, a docudrama that follows 22 heavy individuals facing “extreme life-threatening health consequences” as a result of their obesity. The producers say this is not a competition or stunt, but an in-depth look at the weight loss journeys of each participant over a six month period of time.

The Problem

All this attention on eating, cooking and losing weight follows a parallel trajectory with our rising rates of obesity. Is there a connection? I think there is, and if you agree, it may be time to turn off the TV and take a walk.

How has watching any of these shows changed your life?

Remove the distractions that lead to mindless eating to stop overeating and lose weight

Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity

Eating while distracted can lead to overeating and weight gain

Research presented by Dr. Marion Hetherington at the 2011 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo about multitasking and mindless eating provided proof that weight gain isn’t just about what you eat, but how you eat.

Dr. Hetherington explained that “satiation” is the sensation that lets us know when to end a meal or stop eating. “Satiety” describes what we feel after eating that tells us we’re satisfied, but not stuffed. Hunger is the signal that it’s time to eat again. Being able to detect each of these physical conditions has strong cognitive component.

Or simply put, we must pay attention when eating so our mind can process all of the signals that our body receives through sight, smell, taste and touch, in addition to the barrage of gastrointestinal signals transmitted with each bite.

According to Dr. Hetherington, several studies show that if you eat while doing other things, such as watching TV, reading or even talking, you can end up overeating. Appetite regulation is also affected by the amount of food available, such as large servings or buffets, even if the food doesn’t taste that good.

Based on this emerging research, a new direction for treating weight gain and obesity has evolved that focuses on the act of eating. Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD explained how Intuitive Eating, an approach she helped pioneer, allows people develop a healthy relationship with food and their own body.

Intuitive Eating is based on 10 principles which begin with rejecting the diet mentality and all the externalized rules for “dieting” that go with it. In this way the physical cues of hunger and satiety can begin to guide eating.

Ms. Tribole described “eating amnesia” as what occurs when you eat while distracted. She went on to explain that eating intuitively requires being aware of the food in front of you, as well as your emotions and body sensations.

The benefits of overcoming mindless eating and eating more intuitively go far beyond weight control according to both speakers. Practitioners gain a whole new appreciation for how to live in their own bodies and more accurately interpret their other needs, feelings and thoughts unrelated to food.

Given the abysmal results of most weight loss diets and the constantly changing food landscape, it makes sense to redirect your attention to how you eat, instead of what, if you want to lose weight. Why not shut down all the electronics and other distractions at your next meal and see how it feels?