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Savvy Consumer: Drop pounds with dieting do's and don'ts

Published March 21, 2013 9:51 pm

Widely accepted weight-loss advice may keep you from your goals.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Who has the time to keep up with weight-loss research? It's so technical and confusing — and often contradictory. Yet if you don't know what's going on in the world of caloric counting, the pounds may not drop off as fast as you think they should.

In one European diet and exercise study, for example, participants who were given detailed explanations of the research were more likely to exercise or eat better, or both, than a less clued-in group.

Good Housekeeping has dug into the latest research. And as it did, it found that a surprising number of dieting tactics accepted as gospel have recently been shown to be dead wrong. Knowing which still hold up and which are big fat lies can mean the difference between winning and losing at weight loss.

Here, Good Housekeeping endeavors to set the record straight on two common weight-loss strategies, sending you on the path to a new and slimmer you.

Strategy 1 • To lose a pound, you must cut 3,500 calories.

False: This much-quoted equation doesn't account for the slowdown that happens to your metabolism as you drop pounds, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.

"As a result, it drastically overestimates how quickly people lose weight," said senior investigator Kevin D. Hall. That's why his team has created a computerized model that accurately predicts just how long you'll have to say no to french fries. It takes into consideration not only the drop in calorie burn as you get slimmer, but also your current weight, your age, how much you're eating now and other variables.

Let's say you're a 46-year-old woman who weighs 170 pounds. According to the traditional formula, if you cut 500 calories a day, you would drop a pound a week — 500 multiplied by seven days equals 3,500, or one pound — and lose 26 pounds in six months. But the new math shows that the weight loss is more likely to be 19.5 pounds.

Strategy 2 • Three square meals a day works as well as a plan that includes several mini-meals.

True: Dieters who stick to breakfast, lunch and dinner often are no hungrier than those who opt to have frequent small meals and snacks throughout the day, a new University of Missouri study found. Actually, if you're a dieter who doesn't want to have to be extra careful about portion control, eating three squares might be a better strategy.

"Often people misinterpret the size of a 'mini meal' and end up taking in far more calories than they realize," said lead author Heather J. Leidy. "Also, more meals means more exposure to food, which creates more opportunities for overeating."

How to make the strategies work:

Calorie counting • The weight-loss gods may be cruel, but knowing what to expect can keep you from getting discouraged — and from backsliding — when the scale seems stuck. Try the new Body Weight Simulator, go to bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov.

Three square meals or mini-meals • Whether you want to be a traditionalist or a conscientious "mini meal" strategist, the most important thing is not to go too low. Dieters who dine only once or twice a day tend to get ravenous — and we all know where that leads.






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