Study Sheds Light on Most Effective Diet Strategies
Want to lose weight? Write down everything you eat, don't skip meals, and go easy on those lunches out. So suggest new recommendations published today in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Researchers with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle tracked the dieting habits of 123 overweight or obese post-menopausal women for a year. They found that those who regularly kept food journals lost an average of 12.8 percent of their starting weight, compared to below-average journal-keepers, who lost an average of 8.2 percent. Women who skipped meals lost nearly eight fewer pounds over the course of a year than women who did not. And those who never ate restaurant lunches lost 3 percent more of their body weight than those who did so at least once a week. "The food journal helps you keep track, in real time, of what you are eating," study author Anne McTiernan, a professor of epidemiology at Fred Hutchinson, told ABC News. "Restaurant eating, on the other hand, makes it difficult to know what you are eating, and the serving sizes are often large enough for several people. So, it's difficult to keep an account of what you eat if you don't know what's going into the food."
How to Conquer Food Cravings
No matter where he's traveled or what the adventure, the flight home ends exactly the same way for David Kessler. Once the plane lands in San Francisco, he starts dreaming of dumplings. In particular, he wants the ones in the airport food court—pouches of steamed shrimp joined by sweet, caloric sauce. However, Kessler knows that if he can steer past the food court and on to baggage claim, he will forget all about the dumplings and thus, trounce the craving.
In the universal battle between want and willpower, Kessler has an advantage he wants to share. The former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and author of The End of Overeating says that understanding cravings enables us to better combat them. Combat them, because most of us aren't exactly craving kale. It's probably not a surprise that the worst foods for your health are also the ones we're most likely to want.
Let's start with a quick science lesson. Remember Pavlov's dogs? They drooled in anticipation of food at the sight of people in lab coats because lab-coated people also fed them. Well, Pavlov's dogs aren't the only animals conditioned to respond to association.
The plane lands; Kessler dreams of dumplings. It's 7:30 a.m.; millions of Americans crave coffee. You smell Cinnabon; good luck with that.
Every craving begins with a cue, says Kessler, who defines craving as "cue-induced wanting." The trick is to know your cues. And to know yourself. [Read more: How to Conquer Food Cravings]
You May Be Fat and Not Even Know It
There's more to fat than meets the eye. Literally. While most of the population obsesses over that which wiggles and jiggles, research suggests it's the fat we can't see that's of greater concern. And it's not just about how much fat you have, but where you tend to store it that worries most doctors.
There are two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is located beneath the skin in places like the abdomen, thighs, hips, and buttocks. You know it, you see it, you hate it. Visceral fat, better known as belly fat, is located deep within the midsection, surrounding the liver, heart, lungs, and digestive tract. And it's invisible to the naked eye. "People are self-conscious about the fat they can see," says Heather Hausenblas, associate professor of exercise and health psychology at the University of Florida's College of Health and Human Performance, but "hidden fat, in people of any size, poses the bigger threat." Why? Visceral fat churns out inflammatory substances called cytokines that can wreak havoc on the body's organs.
Subcutaneous fat—that roll of fat you can pinch between your fingers—patiently sits beneath the outermost layer of skin, and while unsightly, it's not as dangerous as visceral fat. A 2004 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the removal of subcutaneous fat through liposuction —nearly 23 pounds of it—in obese women had no effect on their blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels after three months. Visceral fat, on the other hand, is very active metabolically. It constantly releases substances that travel to the liver and influence the production of blood fats. "[It] supplies a feeding tube to your vital internal organs, messing up the blood that is sent to those organs," says Hausenblas. That's why the subcutaneous fat on your thighs, she explains, doesn't matter as much to your health as the visceral fat in your belly. [Read more: You May Be Fat and Not Even Know It]
Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.