A week during which most Americans feast may be not the best time to think about dieting. Who wants to count calories from now through New Year's? But a small study suggests that keeping track of each time you take a bite instead of counting calories might help you lose weight.
The only way to lose weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn off. But this usually means counting calories. You have to know how many calories are in the food you eat, how much of food you are eating, and how many calories your body burns each day.
Researchers at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, decided to ask people to count bites instead of calories and then reduce their average number of bites.
They recruited 61 overweight or obese men and women who were given a 10-minute instruction on how to count bites. Every mouthful was to be counted, with the exception of water. The researchers asked the participants to record their bite counts and send the total to the researchers at the end of each day. They also asked them not to change their eating habits the first week.
The researchers calculated the baseline number of bites taken in the first week. However, 16 volunteers quit the first week. They then asked half the remaining participants to reduce their daily bite counts by 20%, and the other half to reduce it by 30%. Both groups were told to concentrate on eating foods that are filling, but were given no other nutritional advice.
Each day for the next month, participants reported their bite counts. Participants were weighed once a week. At the end of the month, members of both groups lost an average of about 3.5 pounds. This may mean that the group that reduced bites by 30% may have turned to foods with more calories.
Study participants who lasted the month said that they thought that bite counting was "do-able and tolerable. However, many of those who dropped out after a week said that bite counting was too difficult.
The drawbacks to this are that it is small and lasted only a month. Whether people can keep on counting bites longer than a month remains to be studied.
You can read the entire journal article here.