Weighty Matters

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Why am I writing about anything remotely related to weight issues during the week of Thanksgiving? Believe me; I’m not trying to cast a shadow on turkey day, nor any holiday, for that matter. But, it never hurts (any of us) to be somewhat mindful of what and how much we eat. Even though the average weight gain over the holidays is only about one pound, still, that one pound is likely not going to come off. Any tools and tricks can only be helpful, in my view. And, if you choose to ignore them, so be it!

Most importantly, I wanted to highlight some newer findings in the world of weight management in the hopes that you might be able to use one or all of them to your advantage.


Shhh…it’s a secret! One way to be successful at your weight-loss plan is to shut your mouth. No, I don’t mean “not eat.” What I DO mean is to keep quiet about who you tell about your weight-loss efforts. Dr. Peter Gollwitzer, a psychology professor at New York University, studies behavior change in relation to goal setting and planning. His research reveals that when you announce your intention to change something, such as lose twenty pounds, once that intention is acknowledged by a friend or family member, you may not be as inclined to act on it or follow through with. Therefore, it might be better to not say anything, or to only tell a couple of close friends who will support you in your efforts. Another approach is to state your intention as a goal. For example, you might say, “My goal is to lose 20 pounds by joining the hospital’s 6-week weight loss program and by going to spinning class three times a week.” This way, you’re held accountable — to yourself, which is what matters most.

Don’t go it alone. Everyone could use a coach now and then, especially when it comes to losing some weight. While some people do just fine losing weight on their own, new research shows that people who have a weight-loss “coach” lose more weight than those who go solo or who lose weight with “remote” support via, say, a Web site, e-mails, or phone calls. If you’re in a rut or at a plateau, consider working with a dietitian or a health coach to get you back on track.

Be smart…with your phone. Use your smart phone to its full advantage (besides making calls and playing Angry Birds, that is). A study out of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University looked at college students who kept track of their calories and physical activity on their phones. They received feedback on their efforts via text messages. They also got dieting advice and support on Facebook. The result? These students lost more weight compared to students who got the Facebook-only support and another group who received no help at all. The feedback, plus having to be accountable for tracking calories and physical activity, are what likely contributed to the cell phone group’s success.

Slow down, you eat too fast. What’s your hurry? No need to gulp and go. Besides running the risk of indigestion, eating too quickly can cause those calories to add up. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island (URI) have discovered that men eat quite a bit faster than women, that heavier people eat faster than leaner people, and that people eat refined-grain foods more quickly than whole-grain foods. They found that fast eaters consumed 3.1 ounces of food per minute, whereas slow eaters consumed only 2 ounces of food per minute. Men also consumed 80 calories per minute compared to women, who took in 52 calories per minute. A second study at URI showed that faster eaters had a higher body-mass index (BMI) compared to slower eaters. This Thanksgiving, it might not be a bad idea to pace yourself by putting your fork down in-between bites, munching on some celery, or taking frequent sips of water. Pay attention to how fast you eat and make a conscious effort to slow down. Then, enjoy the football game (right after you’ve gone for a walk).

Beware of small packages of treats. It’s hard to imagine that a fun-sized candy bar or a tiny handful of nuts can pack on the pounds…but they can. Miniature or bite-sized foods can actually lead to less restrained eating, meaning that, because you view the food item as being so small, you may end up eating at least twice as much. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found this out after giving people small packages of small candies. The folks ate more of the small candies in small packages compared to small foods in large packages, or large foods in large packages. Don’t be fooled by size!

Low carb? Low fat? Yes, the debate still rages on. No matter what camp you’re in, you might be curious to learn that whether you view carbs as poison or panacea, neither a low-carb nor a low-fat diet leads to sustained weight loss, according to researchers at the World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease meeting. Both diets were linked with poor adherence (people had a hard time sticking with the diets) as well as high attrition (people stopped following the diets). Don’t get discouraged, though: Remember to choose an approach that will work for you for the long haul.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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