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.