seven habits of highly effective dieters

An interesting new study was just published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It reviewed the dietary habits and weight loss results of over 120,000 participants in various different studies over a total span of 16 years.

The focus of the study was on the GI index, and not surprisingly, it found that diets centered around foods with a low glycemic load led to more weight loss than those centered on high glycemic foods.[1]

En route to reinforcing what we had already guessed to be true, however, the study found all sorts of interesting correlations between different food types. Some of them were very surprising! Certain types of high glycemic foods were worse than others, and certain pairings of otherwise “unhealthy” foods actually seemed to not contribute significantly to weight gain.

What makes most successful dieters… successful?

So — at least according to this study — what are the seven habits of successful dieters?

  1. Don’t Worry Whether Your Dairy Is Low-Fat Or Full-Fat

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    In spite of their reputation as being fattening, dairy foods tend to have a low glycemic load. And it turns out that skimming the fat out of your milk, yogurt or sour cream really doesn’t make much of a difference at all. Full-fat yogurt was actually one of the foods that was regularly included as a protein source in successful diets!

  2. Limit Red And Processed Meats

    Red and processed meats saw a small but significant increase in weight gain as compared to diets that took their protein more from seafood, chicken, dairy and nuts. These results would therefore indicate it’s wise to limit red meats unless you’re a bodybuilder on a bulking cycle.

  3. Don’t Pair Red Meats With Refined Starches And Grains

    Terrible news for cheeseburger fans, at least if you like a typical white bun. Refined starches (like white bread) and refined grains (like white rice) were killers when paired with red meats. The fiber that gets stripped from refined foods appears to really be key to aiding in the processing of fatty meats. If you’ve really gotta have a cheeseburger, consider rye or whole wheat instead.

  4. Pair Meat Intake With Low-GI Foods

    There is some good news on the red meat front. When moderate amounts of any kind of meat intake were paired with a low-GI food in the same meal (like cabbage, onions or mushrooms), it actually tended to improve weight loss overall! Sounds like a good excuse for stir-fry.

  5. Don’t Pair High-GI Foods

    You can get away with one high-GI food for the most part, but putting them together always seems to lead to trouble. High-GI foods also tended to put weight on when paired with dairy and eggs.

  6. Eggs and Cheese For Breakfast Are Perfectly Fine!

    eggs cheese and strawberries

    Not a bad breakfast! Image courtesy of @lizzleoo

    Eggs and cheese make for a tasty, protein-packed and satiating breakfast. They’re also both low-GI foods, and were a winning combination in successful weight-loss diets. The high cholesterol in eggs has put people off to regularly eating them, but a growing body of evidence suggests that moderate consumption doesn’t have much effect on the cardiovascular system in healthy individuals.[2] Eggs are also one of the few foods that are rich in biotin!

  7. Keep Protein High, Keep Refined Carbs Low

    Seafood, skinless chicken, nuts, dairy (especially yogurt) and eggs were the big winners for protein-rich diets that consistently showed weight loss. While you also need adequate carbs for daily energy, the study makes clear that refined carbs should be cut from the diet as much as possible. Dairy probably did so well because it’s a good carb source in addition to providing protein. Other potential sources are whole grains, corn and bananas.

We’ve Been Saying It All Along …

The study’s findings reinforce a lot of the dietary recommendations we’ve been giving here. A weight loss diet should primarily be protein, but a mix of healthy fats and good carbs are also key. Don’t forget up to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, which have been shown to significantly decrease all-cause mortality.[3]

So does this advice mean a license to go hog wild with cheese and peanut butter? Not exactly. It doesn’t circumvent the most important rule of body composition — it’s all about calories in vs calories burned. You still need to know your basal metabolic rate and your daily activity, monitor and weigh your food, keep on top of your macronutrient requirements and stay within your limits!

If those limits give you room for some cream-top yogurt, a PB-banana shake or an omelet, however? Well, the evidence thus far says you’ll probably be just fine.

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