When it comes to dieting, studies show that how much you eat is more important than what you eat.
To prove this, researchers in Seattle, Washington studied 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary women aged 50 to 75. The team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre concluded that post-menopausal women who want to lose weight should keep a food journal. They should also avoid skipping meals and eating out - especially at lunchtime.
'It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating,' says Dr Anne McTiernan, director of the centre's prevention centre.
Study participants were given the following tips for keeping a food journal:
Be honest - record everything that you eat
Be accurate - measure portions, read labels
Be complete - include details such as how the food was prepared, and any toppings or condiments
Be consistent - always carry your food diary with you or use a diet-tracking app on your smartphone
Study participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: diet only and exercise plus diet. They filled out questionnaires to assess dietary intake, eating-related weight-control strategies, self-monitoring behaviour and meal patterns. They were also asked to complete a 120-item food frequency questionnaire to assess dietary change throughout the study.
At the end of the study all participants lost an average of 10 per cent of their starting weight, which was the goal of the intervention.
Women who kept food journals consistently lost about 2.7kg more than those who did not. Those who reported not skipping meals lost an extra 3.6kg compared to women who did. Those who ate out less frequently lost on average 2.3kg more than those who ate lunch out at least once a week. The results of the study were published last week in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.