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Making the small changes count Jan. 28, 2013
Written by: Fran Berkoff, QMI Agency

There are lots of diets in the news these days as everyone is struggling to lose those holiday pounds or to shape up for the new year.

When it comes to losing weight, its complex. Finding the right foods that you can enjoy, that fit into your lifestyle and can be modified so you will be able to lose weight is a challenge. But it's not just about changing some eating habits, its also fighting against all the outside influences ... the food ads on TV, radio or magazines, the food outlets on every corner, the availability of so much processed food and such large portions and the food conversations that we all have with friends and family. We eat in response to so much more than hunger, and successfully losing weight or even just making healthier food choices means we have to learn to reshape some of our habits and look at responses we make to our environment.

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Professor Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, has done extensive research on the concept of mindless eating. If you can start to be aware of all the cues in your environment that affect your eating and then make small changes in both environment and your associated behaviour, it may be helpful in making long-term changes in your weight. In his fascinating book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (Bantam, 2006), he gives tips and strategies to help you change some of these behaviours.

A recent paper published in The Journal of Medical Internet Research looked at some of these small, simple changes, exploring how to find out what changes are best for you and how to stick with them long enough to make a difference. It described results from The National Mindless Eating Challenge, an online healthy-eating and weight-loss program focused on simple eating behaviour changes, not dieting. Each month, people in the program were given 3 habit change tips which were based on findings from Dr. Wansink's research.

They were also given a checklist to track their adherence to the tips and email reminders to keep them on track. At the end of each month, they were asked to complete a survey and then were given new tips.

The weight loss was best for those who made changes consistently. People who adhered to the changes 25 or more days a month lost about 2 pounds a month and those who stayed on the program at least 3 months lost about 1% of their initial weight.

The 5 most effective tips were:

  • Never eat directly from a package--always portion food out onto a dish so you will need to face exactly what you eat
  • Put your utensils down in between bites to slow down your eating
  • Keep counters clear of all foods but the healthy ones
  • Eat something hot for breakfast within the first hour of waking up
  • Avoid going more than 3-4 hours without having something small to eat. That way, you will be less likely to overdo it at meals.

Other tips that were effective included using smaller plates, having a glass of water with every meal/snack, restricting your eating to the kitchen or dining room.

MORE COLUMNS BY FRAN BERKOFF, QMI AGENCY

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