Look at evidence to see what works best for weight loss

You’ve resolved to lose the winter weight that’s crept up since the holidays. Now what? There are so many diets, weight loss plans and myths about what works and doesn’t work to drop pounds that dieters often don’t know what to believe.

That’s where the folks at the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, come in. They decided to tackle some of the commonly held beliefs people have when they embark on a weight loss program and separate fact from fiction.

Their study, which was published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, debunked the belief that small changes in one’s diet or exercise will bring a steady drop in weight or that a slow, gradual loss of weight is necessarily better than a faster reduction. For new mothers trying to lose baby weight, the researchers determined that breast feeding doesn’t facilitate weight loss.

“This is a wake-up call. We need to remember to ask where the data [comes from] even when an idea makes sense,” said study author David Allison, the nutrition center’s director.

Let facts be the guide
The good news is, the team found plenty of scientific studies that give dieters information they can count on as they plan their weight reduction. In a nutshell, the best strategies include weight loss programs that have structure and regular visits with healthcare providers or dietitians to monitor the weight programs. Defining exactly what people should and should not eat gives them the boundaries they need to work within their chosen plan, the researchers found. Having shopping lists and receiving prepared meals – frozen or delivered – boost the chances for success.

Allison said he’s concerned about the “sloppy science” that many people embrace as fact. Instead, they should examine their assumptions and whether they fit their particular circumstances.

Those circumstances may include the daily schedule they follow for meals, their favorite foods and the need for particular nutrients and vitamins in their diets. For instance, they may find that taking supplements such as Skinny D offered by Dr. Newton’s Naturals, fits their schedules and their dietary needs. Skinny D allows individuals to replace one meal a day while stopping sugar cravings.

Examine assumptions
To decide whether a diet belief was fact or myth, the research team first determined whether prior studies had come by their evidence for weight reduction claims by doing randomized, controlled experiments. If they hadn’t, a study was deemed ambiguous, outdated or based on observation only. Some of the common beliefs the researchers considered when they measured them against previous studies included childhood habits, yo-yo dieting and snacking.

Take snacking. When it comes to snacks between meals, people often believe it’s their downfall when they are trying to drop pounds. But like so many things, snacking works fine in moderation.

Recently, a study at Cornell University found that eating a smaller portion at snack time is just as satisfying as eating a large portion. A group of 100 adults were divided, with some participants given small snacks and others given larger amounts. Researchers found that those who ate the bigger pieces packed on 77 percent more calories, but both groups reported their cravings for a snack were lower 15 minutes after eating, according to the journal Food, Quality and Preference.

“This research supports the notion that eating for pleasure – hedonic hunger – is driven more by the availability of foods instead of the food already eaten,” said study co-author Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab in the university'[s Department of Applied Economics and Management. “Just a bit satisfies, not magnifies, hunger and craving tendencies for snacks.”