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Eating more CAN mean weighing less!
Weight management is a simple mathematical formula: calories in must equal calories out. The simplest advice for weight loss, then, is to eat less. Easy for some people, but for most people simply eating less means feeling hungry and dissatisfied, especially when large portions of high-calorie foods are so widely available.
Weighing In: Body Mass Index as a Guide to Your Health
In a recent News Bite I discussed the importance of different types of research studies. Prospective studies are especially important because research that is designed to follow people over time is more accurate than the retrospective study where participants are asked to recall diet histories.
How many calories should I be eating?
"Just what the heck is a calorie and what do I do with it?!" I hear this a lot from my patients and knowing the answer is the basis for success in eating well and losing weight.
It's not easy to lose weight and keep it off, and there's no shortage of advice on how to do it. One frequently-mentioned strategy is to weigh yourself regularly. Like a lot of weight-loss strategies, however, these recommendations for regular weigh-ins are mostly based on anecdotal evidence - not scientific study.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation rounded up the results of 12 studies that incorporated weigh-ins into the studied weight loss or weight maintenance strategies (Int J Beh Nut Phys Act 2008, 5:54). Four of those studies included women exclusively, while seven had both men and women and just one included only men. The average Body Mass Index (BMI) reported for all of the studies put all of the participants in the obese weight range (BMI of 30 or more). Half of the studies were focused on maintaining the participants' previous weight loss, while the other half focused on the participants' attempts to lose weight.
The studies focusing on maintaining weight showed a strong relationship between regular self-weighing and maintaining one's weight. Compared to the number of people who regained some of the weight they lost, those who weighed themselves weekly were more likely to maintain their weight. Those who weighed themselves daily were even more likely to maintain their weight loss. In fact, one study found that two years after weight loss, those participants who weighed themselves daily weighed almost 2 BMI units (about 12 to 18 pounds) less than those who said that they didn't weigh themselves at all.
In those studies focused on losing weight, one study found that those people who weighed themselves every day lost about 1 BMI unit more than those who weighed themeselves once per week – and almost 3 BMI units (between 18 and 27 pounds) more than those who did not weigh themselves at all. Other studies had similar results, with those who weighed themselves more frequently losing more weight than those who did not weigh themselves as often.
That said, yet other studies had conflicting results. One study found no advantage to weighing oneself, while another, which called for weighing oneself 4 times per day, showed that its participants lost twice as much weight over a two-year period as those who did not weigh themselves.
Almost all of the studies used for this report were flawed in some way, which reduces the strength of the results. They could have been larger, or designed better, or the participants' weight measured on a standardized scale instead of relying on the subject's own reporting of their weight. Despite those flaws, however, it does seem that weighing oneself at least once a week may help you either lose weight or maintain your previous weight loss.
First posted: January 7, 2009