Thursday, November 24, 2011

Keep this Diet Trick in Mind After the Holidays and Your Waistline Will Thank You

Here's something to consider, and take a little solace in, after you've stuffed yourself this Thanksgiving: Losing weight may be as easy as having soup and crackers for lunch a few times a week. A new study from researchers at Cornell University gives us encouragement to believe this simple advice, but for a reason that may not seem immediately obvious.

The study closely monitored the food intake of 17 volunteers who pigged out as much as they wanted at a lunch buffet for one week. For the next two weeks, half of the group switched to eating one of six commercially available, portion-controlled foods (can of soup, chili, pasta, etc), but were allowed to eat as much as they wanted at other meals and snacks. For the final two weeks, the other half of volunteers followed the same eating regimen.

The results: while eating portion-controlled lunches, each volunteer ate 250 fewer calories per day and lost an average of 1.1 pounds.

The reason may seem to be that the volunteers ate smaller lunches and therefore consumed fewer calories--full stop--but it's not quite that straightforward. Rather, the reason is that eating portion-controlled lunches did not result in the volunteers eating more calories during the rest of the day to compensate for less calories at lunch -- a result that contradicts conventional thinking about diets.

The "why," as suggested by the researchers, is that our brain doesn't possess a very effective mechanism for noticing small drops in energy intake. Making a few small reductions in energy intake during the week won't trigger an overcompensation response, and cumulatively that can yield significant weight loss. Over a year, the volunteers in this study following the simple regimen would lose at least 25 pounds.