Health experts say that the most important weight-loss rule is to consume fewer calories than you burn every day – or in other words, be in a calorie deficit. This rule is often the most daunting one for dieters who think that cutting calories probably means eating less of their favorite foods.
This doesn’t always have to be true. Instead of taking out certain food groups from your diet and starving yourself, developing a focus on incorporating healthier foods is often a better weight-loss approach, according to a new study.
Portions and Weight Loss
The study conducted by Penn State University used data from two different researches in the past which focused on weight loss in women. Both researches, conducted at different times, used female participants to develop a link between consumption of various foods and weight loss.
The women were asked to visit the study lab once a week for an entire month, and were presented with a diverse meal of seven different types of food in varying quantities. The results from the clinical trial were published in the Appetite journal.
In one of the studies used for comparison, researchers had divided women into two different groups: one of them was educated on eating controlled portion sizes, eliminating certain foods from diet and cutting calories as effective strategies for losing weight whereas the second group received no such training. However, when both groups were presented with the same type of meal in equal quantities, neither of them showed portion control.
Eating Healthier is Better than Eating Less
Researchers were expecting women in the first group to make smarter food choices and eat less food than the second group due to the counseling they received, but it turns out that people struggle with portion control when presented with large quantities of food no matter how much training they receive. Doctors call this the portion size effect which most people often fall victim to.
One classic example of this phenomenon is that when the portion sizes were increased by 75 per cent, women in both groups consumed 27 per cent more food.
Although there was no significant difference in the food consumption of both groups when the meal portions were increased, the researchers discovered one big difference between them which was crucial to their weight-loss progress. Women in the first group who received counseling on various weight loss strategies made healthier food choices in comparison to those who didn’t. The first group consumed more fruits, vegetables and salads whereas the second group loaded up on calorie-dense foods such as garlic bread and fried chicken.
Eat More, Lose More
The researchers of the first study did not measure the weight difference of the women who participated, since they were only fed four meals in a month which isn’t enough to create a meaningful conclusion.
The researchers say that the results of the study aren’t surprising as it is already known that making healthier food choices can lead to weight-loss, however, it is a useful reminder for people that cutting back on portions or skipping meals is not the only answer for shedding pounds.
Instead of advising someone to eat less to lose weight, it is better to encourage them to make healthier food choices and incorporate more fresh, unprocessed ingredients in their meals. The payoff for this advice is that people tend to develop healthy eating into a long-term habit which keeps them full and satisfied, while keeping their waistlines in check.