New study findings suggest that controlling portion sizes may be the fastest route to Weight Loss.
The research shows that the “direct route to losing weight is to constantly control your portions,” study author Dr. Everett E. Logue, of Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, told AMN Health.
“I am not saying exercise is not important,” Logue said. If the goal is to reduce calories, however, it’s “easier to skip a brownie” than to run four miles, he pointed out.
The study evaluated 329 overweight or obese 40- to 69-year-old patients using a model based on the idea that behavioral change involves five stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. Study participants were categorized into stages for five target behaviors: portion control, decreasing dietary fat, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, increasing planned exercise and increasing physical activity.
Changes in all five behaviors led to weight loss among the study participants, but decreased portion sizes led to the greatest loss, Logue and his colleagues report in the journal Obesity Research. For example, portion control appeared to increase the chances of losing weight by almost four-fold, while eating more fruits and vegetables was associated with just under a three-fold increase in the chances of losing weight, the report indicates.
By the end of the two-year study, nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of study participants had lost five percent or more of their initial weight, and 18 percent had gained a similar amount.
Those in the action and maintenance stages of behavior change for portion control - that is, those who began controlling their portion sizes at the start of the study and continued to do so for the whole study period and those who had previously begun to limit their portions and maintained this behavior during the study - lost nearly 38 percent of their initial weight, the report indicates.
Participants who increased their intake or maintained their increased intake of fruits and vegetables for 24 months lost about 29 percent of their initial weight. Those who consistently restricted their consumption of dietary fat lost 35.5 percent of their initial weight. And, the report indicates, those who participated in more planned exercise for the duration of the study lost 27 percent of their weight, while those who consistently increased their normal level of everyday activity lost about 31 percent of their weight.
Various studies point to the importance of exercise in weight management, but “probably this (portion control) was an easier way to lose weight,” Logue said. Considering the make-up of the study population, overweight and obese individuals, it might have been “hard for them to start an exercise program,” he noted.
Still, Logue said, “all behaviors matter.” He added that in order to lose weight, individuals must either reduce the number of calories they consume or burn more calories, but these practices “must be done consistently, every day.”
SOURCE: Obesity Research, September 2004.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD