A weighty warning to ladies who lunch: Those who eat out regularly lose fewer pounds
03:00 GMT, 13 July 2012
Next time you meet the girls for lunch and joke about putting the diet on hold for an hour, here’s something to bear in mind.
A scientific study suggests the joke is actually no laughing matter – because those who eat their midday meal out really do lose less weight than those who stay at home.
The researchers found that simple ideas such as avoiding restaurant meals, keeping a ‘food diary’ and ensuring you don’t skip meals were more effective than fancy diets when it comes to successful slimming.
People who eat their midday meal out really do lose less weight than those who stay at home
Dr Anne McTiernan, who led the study, said: 'When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomised, 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 behaviours that supported the global goal of calorie reduction.'
Her team found that those who kept food journals consistently lost six pounds more than their fellow slimmers who did not and women who skipped meals lost eight pounds LESS than women who did not.
Ladies that lunched out at least once a week lost on average 5 pounds less than those who chose to eat at home.
Although all restaurant trips hampered the diet, lunch out was found to be biggest problem.
Dr McTiernan, the director of the Hutchinson Centre’s Prevention Centre and a member of its Public Health Sciences Division, said: 'For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals.
'It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating.'
The team’s top tips for keeping a food diary were to be honest and record everything, be accurate by measuring portions and reading labels, be complete by adding in all the details, and be consistent by making sure your diary is always to hand.
Simple ideas such as ensuring you don't skip meals were found to be more effective than fancy diets when it comes to successful slimming
Dr McTiernan said: 'While the study provided a printed booklet for the women to record their food and beverage consumption, a food journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
'Any notebook or pad of paper that is easily carried or an online program that can be accessed any time through a smart phone or tablet should work fine.'
In addition to documenting every morsel that passes one’s lips, another good weight-loss strategy is to eat at regular intervals and avoid skipping meals, the team found.
Dr McTiernan said: 'The mechanism is not completely clear, but we think that skipping meals or fasting might cause you to respond more favourably to high-calorie foods and therefore take in more calories overall.
'We also think skipping meals might cluster together with other behaviours. For instance, the lack of time and effort spent on planning and preparing meals may lead a person to skip meals and/or eat out more.'
Her team believe that eating out may prompt unhealthy diet choices. Dr McTiernan said.
'Eating in restaurants usually means less individual control over ingredients and cooking methods, as well as larger portion sizes.'
The findings come from the first study ever to look at the impact of self-monitoring, diet behaviours and meal patterns in overweight and obese postmenopausal women
The analysis was based on data from 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary, women, ages 50 to 75 who were assigned to groups of diet and exercise behaviour.
The participants filled out a series of questionnaires to assess dietary intake, eating-related weight-control strategies, self-monitoring behaviours and meal patterns and asked to complete questionnaires.
At the end of the study, participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight, which was the goal of the intervention.
'We think our findings are promising because it shows that basic strategies such as maintaining food journals, eating out less often and eating at regular intervals are simple tools that postmenopausal women – a group commonly at greater risk for weight gain – can use to help them lose weight successfully,' Dr McTiernan said.
The study is published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.