1. Change what you are eating
2. Change the amount of what you are eating
To maximise weight loss in the long term, both factors should be assessed and modified but it’s not a good idea to change both at the same time. Many people find that modifying both factors at once is difficult for them to adjust to, and eventually fall back into their typical unhealthy eating habits.
A Finnish study from 2016 found that almost half of their participants reported slow weight loss primarily through dietary changes. Their dietary changes included an increase in their intake of vegetables, reduction in sweets and fast food and regularly eating small meals. Many participants also found it helpful to regularly weigh themselves (1). The study participants also reported it helpful to apply The Plate Model – a visual method in which a dinner plate serves as a pie chart, which covers the recommended proportions of various food groups (2).
Previous studies have found that when individuals are provided with larger food and beverage portions, there will be a substantial increase in energy intake (3). When these larger portions are offered over weeks, they can contribute to onset of obesity (4). There have been multiple strategies such as tools and education which have been suggested to effectively manage portion sizes, but data is limited as to whether these methods can lead to long term changes and improvements in eating behaviours (5). Studies which offer participants pre-portioned foods have demonstrated successful weight loss and management; however this does not prove participants gained a better understanding of appropriate proportions (6).
Portion control is vital for weight management, but individuals should not be urged to ‘eat less’ of everything as foods have different energy densities. A more effective strategy would be to encourage individuals to increase portion sizes of low energy density foods and reduce portions of high energy foods, so that foods are still satisfying and body weight can be better managed (5).
Changing eating behaviours does not need to be difficult; keeping in mind the above two approaches for better eating habits.
Behaviour modification is reliant on your own intention to change. You must be ready to accept change, develop a plan and set goals for yourself to stay motivated and on track. Changing long term habits can be challenging if you have personal barriers to overcome which can demotivate you with never ending excuses and a negative attitude.
For more information on changing eating behaviours, see our nutrition and weight management course