Are you considering a weight loss diet? You may plan to start by cutting out cookies and chips, but be careful. Limiting people’s choices of junk food makes them eat less junk food, but doesn’t help them to lose weight because they tend to compensate by eating more calories within other food groups, a new study says.
Lead author Hollie Raynor, a professor at the University of Tennessee, and her colleagues, asked 200 obese and overweight adults to make healthy lifestyle changes, mainly to lose weight. The researchers asked the participants to increase their physical activity, limit their calorie intake, and some where also told to choose only two junk food items as part of their diet.
Raynor explained what happened: ”Limiting variety was helpful for reducing intake for that type of food group, but it appeared that compensation occurred in other parts of the diet.” In other words, these people, who wanted to lose weight, may have been eating less junk food (so the idea that foods you eat all the time are not interesting anymore is true!), but they made up for the “loss” in other areas of their diet.
Both groups — the one that was asked to limit their junk food choices and the other that wasn’t — showed great progress in terms of weight loss. Participants reduced their overall calorie intake, as well as their weight. But there was no drop in the amount of calories consumed by the limited junk food group compared to the other group.
What’s the lesson here? Anyone who has ever been on a weight loss diet has probably experienced something similar to the study subjects who limited their junk food choices. If you don’t have the option to go out and buy the food you crave anyway, you will just end up bingeing on something you didn’t really want in the first place. If you want to lose weight, not only do you not need to take the enjoyment out of eating… you may actually be less successful in losing weight.
You may also like to read about another study, which declared dieting safe for pregnant women.