What You Eat is More Important for Weight Loss than How Much
We all know that how much weight we gain or lose is the result of how many calories we take in versus how many we expend. Right?
According to a new study published in the Journal of New England Medicine, there is more to the equation. The study followed 120,000 people for 20 years and tracked their lifestyle factors. The study found that the average weight gain was 1 lb per year across all participants, with results varying according to lifestyle.
Participants who ate "junk" foods like potato chips, drinks containing sugar, and even potatoes gained more than average (1.69 lbs per year for potato chips, 1 lb for sugar based drinks, and 1.28 lbs for potatoes). Alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor sleep habits (under less than 6 hours or more than 8 according to the study), and television viewing also led to more than average weight gains.
Conversely, those particpants who ate healthier foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurts experienced weight loss over the same period (.22, .37, .49, .57, and .58 lbs per year, respectively). Those who participated in some form of physical activity also experienced weight loss.
The authors reported that focusing only on total calories, fat consumption, or sugar consumption doesn't help with weight loss. Instead, avoiding processed foods, sweets, and starches, and engaging in physical activity were the key to weight loss.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, lead author of the study from Harvard's School of Public Health, stated in a news release that "Small dietary and other lifestyle changes can together make a big difference — for bad or good. This makes it easy to gain weight unintentionally, but also demonstrates the tremendous opportunity for prevention. A handful of the right lifestyle changes will go a long way."
This study lends credence to some of the more popular diets such as Paleo, Atkins, and South Beach. It also emphasizes that making a lifestyle change as opposed to "dieting" makes the difference in maintaining a healthy weight.