Top 5 tips for losing weight in 2012

Advice based on studies conducted by researchers at Temple's Center for Obesity Research and Education.

treadmill fitness exercise (photo credit: Courtesy)
treadmill fitness exercise
(photo credit: Courtesy)
With the new year right around the corner, many will be thinking about their New Year's resolution. One of the most popular – losing weight – can also be one of the most difficult to keep. But researchers at Temple's Center for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) work year-round to study the treatment and prevention of obesity. Based on that research are five tips to stick to the pledge to lose weight throughout the year.
1). Get support – Weight loss is a hard thing to do alone, but having a support system can make it easier to achieve that goal – even if that support comes from the computer or your smart phone. Research led by Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor of kinesiology and a clinical psychologist at CORE, found that college-age women who were invited to a private Facebook page and received daily, personalized text messages with tips and information on nutrition and exercise, lost more weight than their counterparts who had no extra support. “These results show that text messaging and smart phones are powerful tools for delivering weight loss interventions, particularly since these are technologies that most college students have with them at all times," said Napolitano.
2). Get more sleep - We've lost about 90 minutes of total sleep a night, down to less than seven hours. Researchers at CORE think it could be affecting our ability to lose weight, which is why they are currently studying whether people who sleep less than seven hours a night can lose more weight by extending their sleep by just one hour. Most sleep studies focus on obese individuals with sleep apnea or diabetes, but CORE researchers want to understand the sleep habits of obese individuals without these issues. "Even without those sleep issues, the fact is that obese and overweight individuals still need to lose weight, and without the proper amount of sleep that can be difficult," says Stephanie Vander Veur, director of clinical research at CORE.
3). Change your behavior – When trying to lose weight, some will avoid carbs; others will avoid fats. Which is the best diet? According to Gary Foster, director of CORE, either one works, as long as behavioral change is a part of your weight-loss plan. Foster led a study to determine which one was best for long lasting success, in which he studied 300 people, half assigned to a low-carb diet and half to a low-fat diet. All of the participants attended a support group to learn about healthy eating and exercise, and by the end, both cohorts had lost nearly identical amounts of weight. "This research tells us that people wanting to manage their weight need to be less concerned with which diet they choose, and more concerned with incorporating behavioral changes into their plan," says Foster.
4). Keep a routine – According to Robert Whitaker, a professor of pediatrics and public health at CORE, household routines can help cut the risk of childhood obesity. Whitaker led a study which found that children who got a reasonable amount of sleep, watched less television and often had dinner with their families were less at risk of developing obesity later in life. "Nearly every aspect of a child's life, when taken together, could be a contributing factor for obesity," he says, adding that the findings in the study could help start the family dialogue for implementing changes for a healthier lifestyle.
5). Make weight loss a family affair – Focusing on healthy living can not only benefit adults, it can help curb obesity in children as well. To that end, researchers at CORE's Family Eating Laboratory are working to help families adopt life-long healthy eating habits. Most recently, the lab was awarded a $3.4 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to develop a program that will help mothers learn strategies to promote healthy eating behaviors to their children. “We want children to grow up with good eating habits, and without having to struggle with food issues into adulthood," said Jennifer Orlet Fisher, an associate professor of public health and director of the Family Eating Laboratory.
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