Very few people who hope to lose weight will be surprised to hear that exercise is a key part of shedding pounds, but a new study suggests that if you want to keep the pounds off, you might also try something else: Eat more often.
“Most of the research has shown that people who eat more frequently have a lower weight. But no one knows why,” lead researcher Jessica Bachman, assistant professor in the department of nutrition and dietetics at Marywood University in Pennsylvania, told Reuters.
Researchers examined data from two studies sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The first looked at the eating habits of people with a body mass index in the range that is considered overweight to obese.
The second study looked at people with a BMI that put them in the normal weight range. Approximately half of those people had lost at least 30 lbs. and had kept the weight off for at least five years.
How did the eating habits of the two groups compare? On average, people in the overweight group ate three meals and just over one snack a day, while normal weight individuals ate three meals and a little more than two snacks each day.
People in the normal weight range may have eaten more, but they nevertheless consumed fewer calories, 1, 900 calories a day. People who had lost weight and maintained their weight loss consumed 1, 800 calories a day. Overweight individuals consumed more than 2, 000 calories a day.
Most of the people who had lost weight and kept the pounds off walked at least one hour a day, seven days a week, Prof. Bachman told Reuters.
Although the impact eating frequency has on weight loss still remains unclear, snacking more often throughout the day may help by preventing you from getting so hungry you’ll pig out come mealtime, Prof. Bachman said.
“If you wait 10 hours after you’ve last eaten, you end up eating a lot more food,” she said. “If you sit down and you’re really hungry, you also tend to eat more calories.”
The study was published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
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