Three key steps to weight loss

According to a study conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, there are three main factors that determine successful weight loss.

The most important thing you can do? Keep a food diary. The study found that women who kept a diary to track their food intake lost on average, six pounds more than those who didn’t.

“When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomized, controlled trials comparing different diets finds that restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate. Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviors that supported the global goal of calorie reduction,” said lead researcher, Dr. Anne McTiernan.

For the study, researchers tracked 124 women between the ages of 50 and 75 who were taking part in another study looking at nutrition and exercise for women. Their average age was 58, average BMI was 31.3, and over the year they were tracked, they lost an average of 10.7 per cent of their body weight.

On the benefit of having a journal, McTiernan noted, “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.”

The women were given the following valuable tips for keeping a food diary:

“Be honest – record everything you eat. Be accurate – measure portions, read labels. Be complete – include details such as how the food was prepared, and the addition of any toppings or condiments. Be consistent – always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking application on your smart phone.”

The second most important factor for weight loss success turned out to be not skipping meals.

The study found that women who regularly consumed three meals a day lost almost eight more pounds than those who skipped meals. Researchers theorize this is because those who skip meals end up hungrier later on and are much more likely to overeat.

The third most important factor? Eating at home.

Since you never really know how many calories you are consuming when eating in a restaurant, it’s hard to control them. The study found that women who ate lunch outside their home  at least once a week lost five less pounds on average, than those who ate at home. The more meals they consumed at restaurants – particularly lunches – the less weight they lost. Fast food can’t be blamed either, as only 10 per cent of respondents reported consuming meals at fast food restaurants.

Ways to track the food you eat
Of course, you can record your food consumption the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – but there are also a variety of great smartphone and tablet apps available to help you track the food you eat all day, and the calories you consume.

There are a couple free options such as the Calorie Counter and Go Meals HD, but for those willing to spend a few dollars there are more flushed-out apps such as Livestrong’s Calorie Tracker for $2.99, Food Tracker Pro for $1.99, iFood Diary for $2.99 and the most popular MyNetDiary at $9.99.

Sources: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, AARP, Live Science