Jumpstart your diet with evidence-based tips

Losing weight is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions made in the United States, where approximately 68 percent of the population in considered overweight or obese. So it’s no surprise that each January fitness centers are packed with people, diet books fly off the shelves, and weight-loss programs see surges in their memberships.

With all of the options and information out there, it’s hard to figure out the best way to drop pounds and improve your health. And unfortunately many popular diets and weight-loss programs are not based on the facts – which may explain why only 5 percent of people who diet are able to lose weight and keep it off. 

But, the fact is, there are evidence-based methods for losing weight. We put together this collection of diet tips based on academic studies to make sure your diet is based on the facts.

Get moving. A systematic review of 43 studies found that exercise combined with diet changes resulted in a greater weight reduction than diet changes alone.  (For a refresher on the value of systematic reviews, click here.) The review also found that exercise is associated with improved cardiovascular disease risk factors even if no weight is lost.  The take-home message: It’s not enough just to cut out the cookies.  You have to get moving as well.

Try a “low glycemic index” diet.  Glycemic index is a measure of the effects a specific food has on blood sugar levels. Foods that break down more slowly and release glucose (a type of sugar the body uses for energy) more gradually have a low glycemic index. These include fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, milk, whole grains and nuts. Foods that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly have a high glycemic index. They include refined sugar, white bread and rices, and most processed starches.

A systematic review of six studies found that overweight people were more likely to lose weight and improve their cholesterol on low glycemic index diets compared to other diets.  In other words, make sure your diet is full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein, and light on processed sugar and starches.

Put away the extra-large bowls, take out the smaller plates.  Several studies have found that people eat more out of larger containers without even realizing it.  One study by Cornell psychologist Brain Wansink found that movie-goers ate 30 to 40 percent more popcorn out of large containers compared to those who were served popcorn in medium-sized containers. Another study by Wansink found that food served in larger bowls at a party led to 56 percent greater food intake compared with food served in smaller-sized serving bowls.  Both studies lead to the conclusion that serving size provides us implicit clues on much is appropriate to eat.

Set up your environment to encourage healthy eating.  Studies show that when you’re busy watching television, reading, or socializing while you eat, you pay less attention to how much food you consume to the point where your body’s natural signals of fullness are ignored. As often as possible, make time to sit down at a table to eat meals and snacks, and avoid multitasking when it comes to food.

Eat breakfast.  The National Weight Control Registry is the largest-ever prospective study of people who have lost weight and successfully kept it off. The registry is currently tracking more than 5,000 people who have lost weight and kept it off. What is one trait many of the participants have in common?  They eat breakfast. A study of nearly 3,000 subjects in the registry found that nearly 80 percent eat breakfast everyday and only four percent never eat breakfast. Even if it’s small, try to consume something in the morning to jumpstart your metabolism.

Wishing you a healthy New Year!


  1. I am a strong believer in the glycemic index. I personally lost 40 pounds in about 4 months by eating foods that were low on the glycemic index and that had a low glycemic load as well. I believe there are more than one effective ways to lose weight. If you find something that works and stick with it long enough, you can achieve any weight loss results you desire. Looking at the glycemic index and load of foods you consume and controlling your hunger is something that works, and should be an essential part of a good diet plan.


  1. […] you still working on that New Year’s resolution to lose weight?  If so, there is some newly published evidence that might give you the boost that you […]

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