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No. 1 Weight-Loss Tool

Tuesday, 03 Jan 2012 07:55 AM


Weight loss is one of the top resolutions people make every year, one that often lasts no more than a few days. But keeping a food diary can dramatically increase your chances of success, and it doesn’t have to be a complicated process.

In a study of nearly 1,700 overweight adults, those who recorded everything they ate for six days each week lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records during a six-month period. “It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories,” said lead researcher Jack Hollis, Ph.D.

The study, from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. More than two-thirds of the participants lost at least nine pounds, an amount that reduced their health risks, and the average weight loss across the group was 13 pounds.

Along with moderate daily exercise, such as walking for at least 30 minutes daily, weight loss resulted from eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low-fat or non-fat dairy, controlling portions, and attending weekly group meetings.

Small Losses, Big Health Gains

Depending on your weight, losing nine pounds may or may not seem like a big drop, but it can significantly improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce risk for diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For example, earlier research found that dropping five pounds can lower risk of hypertension by 20 percent.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends gradual, sustainable weight loss of about 10 percent of your weight over a period of six months. This amount significantly improves health, although setting and reaching more ambitious goals can do even more good.

Tracking Food

Once you make a decision to lose weight, tracking what you eat and drink is a painless way to see how you’re consuming empty calories. For soda drinkers, simply tracking the number of cans consumed in a day can be an eye-opener.

Web sites, paid or free, and mobile phone apps can help you record and calculate all sorts of numbers, from calories to grams of different types of fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. But keeping a food diary can be as simple as writing things down on a sticky note or emailing or texting yourself. The important thing is to record everything you eat and drink, and take a look at where you’re getting excess calories.

Being accountable to yourself is a good start, and sharing your progress with others, as people did in the Kaiser study, creates additional accountability. Whether you choose to share your diary with others or not, a small notepad may be all you need. Include any exercise you do as well.

Tracking food and exercise is also a basic tool that is widely used by fitness trainers and weight-loss coaches — for good reason. It gives you an opportunity to focus on actions within your control, to make improvements, and to see the results of your efforts.

Among the many online resources for tracking food and exercise, Daily Burn is a simple one. It does require registration but costs nothing, unless you choose to enroll for more sophisticated tools. It offers food and exercise information, an opportunity to share progress and tips with others, and it can send you alerts via email or an iPhone to encourage you to keep working toward your goals.






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Tuesday, 03 Jan 2012 07:55 AM
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