Study: use your bathroom scale and simple goals to lose weight

For those working to lose weight, hopping on that bathroom scale daily, having goals and charting your progress may be simple but effective ways to bump up weight loss, suggests a new study published today.

The study, published in the Journal of Obesity, adds to a body of research finding that dieters who track their weight have better success at both weight loss and maintenance.  And for lower cancer risk, weight is important. Being overweight and obese is a cause of ten cancers, including postmenopausal breast, colorectal and liver. AICR’s top Recommendation for Cancer Prevention is for people to stay a healthy weight.

This study was held over two years and it started with approximately 150 participants all learning the same evidence-based strategies for weight loss. Everyone was encouraged to make small healthy changes but they weren’t given a specific diet or exercise plan.

The men and women were then divided into two groups. One group was given a scale and asked to weigh themselves daily, preferably in the morning, and then enter their weight on a (password-protected) website. They were directed to aim for 10% weight loss that first year then maintain it the second year. The website gave each person a chart that tracked their progress along with visualization of goal weights. The chart showed trends, having a line appear 1% below the person’s current weight for a new target weight. (After maintaining that target weight for 8 days, the green line lowered another 1% on the chart.)

    example of weigh-loss visal, with goals and trends

example of weight-loss visual, with goals and trends

The second group was told they would receive the weight-loss intervention after a year. Continue reading

Study: Obesity Increases Breast Cancer Risk, Preventing Weight Gain Key

Postmenopausal women who are overweight — and especially obese — have a greater risk of developing breast cancers, finds a new study that highlights the importance of preventing weight gain, as it also raises questions about whether losing weight necessarily reduces that risk.

The study adds to a consistent body of research showing that overweight and obesity increases women’s risk of postmenopausal breast cancers. It was published yesterday in JAMA Oncology.

AICR estimates that a third of US breast cancers could be prevented if women were at a healthy weight throughout life, were active and did not drink alcohol.

In this study, as other research has seen, the heavier the women, the greater the risk. Women categorized as the most obese were at almost double the risk of the most common type of breast cancer, ER-positive, along with PR-positive tumors. These cancers are fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone, respectively.

The study used data from approximately 67,000 women who were all part of the Women’s Health Initiative trials. That study focused on preventing certain cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis. When the women entered the study in the mid 1990s they were 50 to 79 years old, and they were weighed. They also answered questions about their lifestyle habits, medical history and other health risk factors. After that, they were weighed annually and had regular mammograms. Continue reading

Keep that Fitbit On: Exercise Helps Prevent Cancer

If you’ve seen the recent headlines warning that physical activity won’t help you lose weight, you may be wondering if your evening walk or daily workout is worth the time.

The answer is a resounding YES – do take that evening walk, keep your pedometer on and get your exercise in whether you want to lose weight or not.

In the last few weeks, there’s been one article after another with experts arguing about what’s most important for weight loss – diet or exercise. But getting lost in all this discussion is the overwhelming evidence that physical activity provides many health benefits independent of weight loss, including lowering risk for at least three cancers – endometrial, colorectal and postmenopausal breast.being-physically-active-decreases-risk-of-these-cancers

There’s no argument that getting to and staying a healthy weight is also important for cancer. But this debate misses the mark when it comes to shaping your health. It is true that you “can’t outrun a bad diet,” as the author of a Washington Post article “Take off that Fitbit” says. It’s also true that for better health you need to do more than just cut calories.

For example, in that Post article, the author cites a study showing that diet only led to more weight loss than a diet and exercise group. What he didn’t point out is that while the diet only group lost slightly more weight, they also lost more muscle and bone mass than the diet and exercise group. This is especially critical because the study’s participants were 65 and older. Exercise helps you keep your muscle and strong bones at any age.

Apps, tracking devices and pedometers have also been singled out as not being the answer to weight loss. But losing weight takes a lot of work – it is hard to eat less – and you need all the support you can get to succeed. So while these devices aren’t the answer, studies do show that tracking your food and exercise is one key component to successful weight loss. You can also use a notebook, calendar or checklist, what matters is keeping track of your progress.

For more tips on eating smarter, learn about AICR’s New American Plate way of eating to lower cancer risk and lose weight healthfully.