If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, undoubtedly you’ve been on countless types of diets: low-fat, low-carb, grapefruit, cabbage soup… Maybe you joined a commercial program such as Weight Watchers or Nutrisystem, or perhaps you worked with a dietitian on your own personalized plan. And maybe you did lose weight at first… but eventually ended up gaining it back.
We all know how frustrating trying to lose weight can be, and we’ve learned that, just as with diabetes management, there’s no one size that fits all when it comes to weight loss. Researchers have discovered this, too — there’s still no magic pill or special foods that will miraculously make a person thin. But people can and do lose weight and keep it off. To find out how some have done it, check out a few of the headlines related to weight management from this past year. (See “Extra, Extra: Nutrition News That You Can Use [Part 1]” for information about diet and heart health.)
- Sugar substitutes help with long-term weight maintenance.
Drinking beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes (artificial sweeteners), as opposed to sugar-sweetened drinks, helps people keep off the weight they’ve lost, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers looked at the nutrient intake of more than 300 people. Those who successfully maintained their weight loss were more likely to use dietary strategies such as restricting fat and sugar intake and choosing sugar-free beverages than those who didn’t keep their weight off. Of course, sugar-free beverages aren’t “magic bullets” in and of themselves; they need to be used along with portion control and exercise.
- Using meal replacements helps with weight loss.
In a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, people who drank either five meal replacement shakes per day or who had three shakes plus two shelf-stable entrees (along with fruits and vegetables) daily lost weight. Those who drank five shakes daily lost an average of 43.4 pounds in 19 weeks, and those who had three shakes lost an average of 37.5 pounds in 18 weeks. Again, the shakes were not magic bullets; commitment, compliance, and accountability within the structured program were key factors for success, too.
- Eating mindfully also helps with weight loss.
Also published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that people who eat “mindfully” are less likely to be obese. What does eating mindfully mean? In this study, eating mindfully, or being more aware of what one eats, was defined by the following five factors: disinhibition (eating when full), awareness (paying attention to how food looks, tastes, and smells), external cues (eating in response to stimuli such as advertising), emotional responses (eating in response to feelings such as sadness), and distraction (focusing on other things while eating). As measured by these five factors, people who are overweight or obese don’t eat as mindfully as those with a lower body-mass index, and they are more likely to eat for reasons other than hunger.
- Practicing yoga may lead to weight loss.
Speaking of eating mindfully, a study done at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has found that practicing yoga on a regular basis may help prevent middle-age spread in normal weight people and can help overweight people lose weight. Why? It’s likely because people who do yoga are more attuned to other things, such as sensations of hunger and fullness. And as was reported in the study above, eating mindfully can help with weight loss. Makes sense, right? Namaste.
- Taking probiotics after gastric bypass surgery can help with weight loss.
Know anyone who has had gastric bypass surgery? In a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Stanford Hospital & Clinics found that people who had a type of gastric bypass procedure called a Roux-en-Y lost more weight and had higher levels of vitamin B12 (B12 deficiency is common after gastric bypass) if they took a probiotic supplement than those not taking a supplement. In fact, at three months, the probiotic group had an almost 48% weight loss, while the control group lost 38.5%. It’s possible that probiotics prevent a buildup of “bad” bacteria in the gut, which may affect gastric emptying, thereby slowing weight loss.
- Lack of sleep can pack on the pounds.
According to data presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle this summer, not getting enough sleep does more than just lead to dozing off later in the day. In one study, healthy men and women underwent five nights of sleep deprivation while a control group got adequate sleep. The sleep-deprived group gained an average of roughly three pounds, while the control group experienced no significant weight gain. All participants had three meals a day, plus access to healthful snacks. Interestingly, people in the sleep-deprived group reported having a decreased appetite, so other factors are likely responsible for the weight gain. So the message is to get plenty of shut-eye!