August 2008

Three Habits for Highly Effective Weight Loss

With over two-thirds of American adults overweight or obese, many people are searching for ways to lose weight – and possibly decrease the risk of cancer at the same time. According to some recently-published studies, the key to shedding pounds and keeping them off may lie in our everyday habits.

Here are three behavioral strategies that may help:

Food Diary

Pick Up a Pen: Tracking what you eat in a food diary can lead to shedding more pounds, according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In the study, approximately 1,700 participants were asked to restrict calories, exercise at moderate intensity levels, attend group sessions, and follow a diet high in fruit and vegetables aimed at stopping hypertension (the DASH diet). After six months, more than two-thirds of the participants lost at least nine pounds. The biggest weight loss was experienced by those who kept the most extensive food records every week. Other behaviors associated with increased weight loss include more minutes spent exercising and attending group sessions.

Calendar PagesAvoid Weekend Pitfalls: Does this sound like you? Weekdays it’s a healthy pattern of calorie-cutting and exercising: weekends, not so much. This pattern, according to a study published in this month’s Obesity, may be the reason behind your slower-than-expected weight loss. In the study, 48 adults were assigned to two groups for a year – one group that restricted calories, and one that exercised daily. Daily weight changes, calorie intake, and activity levels were measured for weekends and weekdays. During weekdays, both groups were burning more calories than they were consuming, which leads to weight loss. Yet on weekends, both groups ate more calories compared to weekday consumption and the exercise group was less active, which prevented them from losing weight.

Integrate Small Changes: Whether it’s adding one more vegetable or another hundred steps to your day, a new study suggests that focusing on small, cumulative changes can make significant differences in weight loss and maintenance. Published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, the study compared weight loss and maintenance between a standard weight loss group, and a group that selected healthful, small changes that would fit into the individuals’ lives. Both groups received the same amount of time with counselors and exercise training programs over the course of four months. After another three months of no meetings, the small-change group kept significantly more weight off than the standard-diet group.

Woman's Feet On ScaleA Healthy Weight for Health

The record numbers of overweight people today come at a time when the evidence linking excess body fat to cancer risk is stronger than ever before. AICR's expert report found that carrying excess body fat is convincingly associated to an increased risk of six types of cancer, including pancreatic, colorectal, and post-menopausal breast cancer.

Yet while the end goal of reaching a healthy weight may be the same, nutritionists agree there is no one correct way to reach that goal. “In the struggle to lose weight, every individual faces their own unique motivators and barriers,” says AICR Nutritionist Sarah Wally. “Not every weight loss strategy will work for every person, but experimenting with different behavioral approaches allows you to find the one(s) that best suits your needs.”

For tips on how weekends can help you meet health goals, AICR Nutrition Advisor Karen Collins offers a column. Once you are a healthy weight, try these strategies in Staying Lean for Cancer Prevention to maintain your weight.

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