↓Fat ↑Exercise = Successful Weight Loss

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If you’re trying to lose weight you may want to focus on eating less fat and increasing exercise, according to results from a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers used NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data from 2001-2006 from obese participants who reported trying to lose weight in the preceding year. Forty percent reported losing at least 5% of their body weight.

All participants reported strategies they used for weight loss from a list of 14 choices on the questionnaire. The researchers then analyzed which of these strategies linked to at least 5% weight loss.

The most common strategies associated with successful weight loss were eating less fat and exercising more. Although fewer people reported taking prescription weight loss pills, it was also linked to at least 5% weight loss. And joining a weight loss program was associated with a10% of weight loss.

Strategies that did not link to weight loss included eating less food, drinking lots of water and eating diet foods, or taking herbs, supplements and other non-prescription pills.

This study adds to other studies looking at how people lose weight most successfully in real life situations and are similar to successful strategies reported in other studies. One-third of adults in the U.S. are obese which means higher risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

What does this mean for you if you’re trying to lose weight?

  1. Limiting foods that have a lot of calories per bite are strategies that do seem to help with weight loss. This aligns with AICR’s message to limit high fat, high sugar foods and put more whole plant foods like vegetables and fruits on your plate – good for cancer prevention and for healthy weight.
  2. Exercise is one important part of successful weight loss. If you struggle with getting started or get bored, check out our brochure series Simple Steps for Physical Activity for ideas.
  3. If you’re stuck and unable to lose weight, talk with your health care provider or a registered dietitian for some new ideas and strategies that are more personalized to your needs and lifestyle.

In this study, formal weight loss programs and prescription drugs worked for a few people, but there are many other strategies not mentioned that may be right for you. Here some strategies that other studies show may work:

  • eating more fruits and vegetables,
  • limiting portion sizes
  • choosing healthy snacks
  • planning meals
  • tracking calories and fat
  • measuring food
  • regularly weighing yourself

Read “Seven Habits…” for strategies that have helped some people keep off weight.

Try our 12-week New American Challenge for ideas on making healthy changes.


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

2 thoughts on “↓Fat ↑Exercise = Successful Weight Loss”

  1. Your diet plays an important role in magnifying your body but those who go on liquid diets, nonprescription weight loss pills and eating diet foods and products did not see a successful weight loss.

  2. This is a great article about weight loss and many of the points have helped me lose weight in the past. one of the most helpful weightloss tolls for me was switching to a completly paleo diet. It has truly helped me feel better and more refreshed as well as helped me achieve my weight loss goals. If you want to know more about paleo diets check out http://greatestviews.com/paleo-recipe-book/

    this is where i started and I have never felt better. thanks

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