Habits that help you to manage your weight

I was recently away from home for 10 days, on the Auckland Mayoral Pacific Trade mission - which was a very interesting trip, and a privilege to be on, though I missed my family terribly and it was very, very busy. One of the challenges that I found in being away was a lot of time sitting around in meetings, on coaches and in planes with relatively little opportunity to exercise. I did get out for a run twice, but on one of those I was chased quite effectively by a dog in Tonga, which meant that I ran a little quicker than my target pace. Another challenge was managing my food. When you're eating out of your home environment all the time, and also have obligations to try at least a little food several times a day so as not to cause political embarrassment by offending your host (sometimes the Prime Minister), it gets pretty hard to stick to any plan at all, let alone a more structured diet.

I can across an interesting paper that helps to spell out the nature of the links between lifestyle factors that seemed important for success in a group of successful weight losers. Here's the take home messages:

  • Eating meals regularly was associated with greater recent weight loss, and eating more fruit and vegetables
  • TV related viewing and eating while you do it was associated with greater BMI and greater fat and sugar intake
  • More eating away from home was related to greater fat and sugar intake, eating fewer fruits and vegetables, and less physical activity
  • Using weight control strategies was most consistently linked to better weight, diet and physical activity outcomes. These included habits like keeping a written log of amount and type of exercise as well as calorific content of food that you eat, planning meals and exercise to manage weight, and using meal replacements to manage weight (though the latter strategy loaded least strongly on this factor in the analysis presented in the paper).

In general, eating away from home and TV related eating and viewing are more related to negative outcomes, and eating regularly and using weight control strategies are more related to positive benefits.

The paper summarizes by saying that lifestyle patterns (like eating regularly) are more important in predicting diet, physical activity and weight that individual behaviors (like eating breakfast) alone. So, try to see the whole picture when you are trying to manage or lose weight. It seems important  to think and act upon sticking to behavioral clusters rather than seeking false solace in solitary positive behaviors, like thinking that by making sure you that eat breakfast acts as a protective factor that forgives all other ills.

I'm enjoying getting my clusters back into my life. Let me know how you get on.