I know that counting calories is a popular way to lose weight - even though I don't agree with it. What I do agree with is actually cutting down on the number of calories you eat. Now that might seem like the same thing but it isn't and I'll get to why it's different in a little while, because I want to tell you about some interesting news first.
Anne McTiernan from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre ran a 12-month study, with over 120 women, looking at what helped participants to lose more weight. What she found was that women, who kept a food diary over the period of the trial, lost about 6lbs more than people who didn't. Skipping meals was also a significant factor. Those women who skipped meals ended up 8lbs heavier than those who ate regularly.
Those who went out for lunch just once a week ended up 5lbs heavier than those who didn't. The more you eat out the heavier you get - even when you are on a calorie controlled diet.
"For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on these study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals"
Anne McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Centre.
Of course keeping a Food Diary only works when you are honest and record everything you eat. So you need to carry it with you at all times.
So their advice is pretty much: vigilant self-monitoring of what you eat; cook all your own food; and eat regular meals. That's good advice, but I need to get back to why counting calories and cutting down on calorie intake are not the same thing.
When you count calories you have a daily limit so you have to monitor absolutely everything you eat. You need to obsess over food labels. You need to engage in a constant battle with yourself over whether or not to have something delicious, that you really fancy, but which is high in calories, or lots and lots of much lower calorie stuff. Hunger is a frequent accompaniment to this process, along with a perpetual thinking about food and the next meal. Willpower, that is mental force, is what is essential to succeed and willpower never works when you are tired, fed-up, emotionally exhausted, or just plain feeling sorry for yourself. So this method is bound to fail - or at least take very much longer to attain the target weight. Around half of people give up on their diet in less than 12 months.
"You can initially lose 5 to 10% of your weight on any number of diets, but then the weight comes back."
Traci Mann, Psychologist, University of California, Los Angeles
Cutting down on calories is very different. You get to enjoy whatever you fancy, but that's not a recipe for crazy eating, nor a suggestion that you can binge constantly and lose weight. It's a suggestion that shifts the focus away from food so the obsessive thoughts and cravings have no reason to be there.
It's a way to lose weight and enjoy life at the same time. I mean, if you can have what you want how can you crave it? Knowing you can have it actually reduces the desire for it, so although you still have it, you eat less of it.
Michael Hadfield, author of 'How to Lose Weight Easily', has been helping people to lose weight for around 14 years. If you'd like a free food diary template then visit http://www.HypnosisIsEasy.com/weight-loss-food-diary.htm