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Diet 'dry-run' the key to beating yo-yo weight

Laura Wakely
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Thinkstock

Practising weight-management techniques before embarking on a diet helps keep weight off and could stop the cycle of yo-yo dieting, according to new research.

Scientists at Stanford University found women who spent eight weeks learning healthy behaviours before starting a weight-loss program were better able to keep the weight off a year later than those who began dieting straight away.

The study involved 267 overweight or obese women split into two groups, one of which began trying to lose weight at the beginning of the study and a second that learned about weight management in a more relaxed way before actively starting to lose weight.

Each took part in a behavioural program that encouraged a greater intake of vegetables and fruit and increased physical activity. They also learned how to find low-fat alternatives and were taught how to monitor weight fluctuation.

A year later, the group that learned about weight maintenance before dieting had regained just one kilogram on average while the group that dieted right away had gained three kilograms on average.

Click here for our gallery of 51 fat-loss secrets

Lead researcher Michaela Kiernan told Stanford News that the results show women can stop the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

"Those eight weeks were like a practice run," Kiernan said.

"Women could try out different stability skills and work out the kinks without the pressure of worrying about how much weight they had lost."

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Melanie McGrice told ninemsn many of her clients were yo-yo dieters.

"It will be people who come in and say they've tried heaps of different diets over the years, including fad diets like the lemon detox diet, which are bad nutritionally," McGrice said.

"They're often very confused about what a healthy diet is and they're often very scared."

She said one of her clients had been following fad diets for so many years that she thought anything other than diet products would make her gain weight, including fruit and vegetables.

Click here for our gallery of Meal swaps for weight management

McGrice said there are 10 simple tips that yo-yo dieters can follow before thinking about losing weight.

  • Eat regularly throughout the day and don't go for more than five hours without food
  • Learn to feel and react to your appetite hormones
  • Focus on the quality of the food you're eating rather than the quantity and try to include all four core food groups in your diet
  • Work with a dietitian who can teach you what nutrients you need and fit your diet around your lifestyle
  • Include low-starch vegetables like broccoli, bok choy and cherry tomatoes every day because they're low in calories and help you feel full
  • Taste your food and savour it
  • Think about where you eat, for example try to eat at the dinner table rather than the in front of the television
  • Eat slowly and try to put your cutlery down between each mouthful of food
  • Learn about portion sizes and what you need
  • Make sure you're drinking enough water during the day and avoid soft drinks and sweetened drinks.

Watch the What's Good For You This Summer team put some of the most popular and strict detox diets on the market to the test:


Getty ImagesPeople who take public transport to work up to three kilos lighter ThinkstockEating instant noodles linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes ThinkstockAllergy-free nuts created by scientists ThinkstockTeens who diet more likely to have ongoing health problems
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