Making small changes in our diet over a stretch of 25 days or more every month, goes a long way in helping shed the extra pounds, says a new study.
Led by Brian Wansink, professor at the Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, researchers launched the National Mindless Eating Challenge (NMEC), an online healthy eating and weight loss programme that focused on simple eating behaviour changes, instead of dieting.
NMEC participants, after answering questions about their eating goals, background and well-being, were sent three customized tips to follow for a month. All tips were founded on research and based on Wansink's book "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think" (Bantam, 2006).
Participants could download a checklist to track their adherence to tips and receive email reminders to keep them on track. At the end of each month, they were expected to send in a follow-up survey, the Journal of Medical Internet Research reports.
Of the 504 participants who completed at least one follow-up survey, more than two-thirds either lost weight (42 percent) or maintained their weight (27 percent). Weight loss was highest among people who made changes consistently, according to a Cornell statement.
Those whose adherence was 25 or more days per month reported an average monthly weight loss of two pounds or roughly one kg, and those who stayed in the programme at least three months and completed at least two follow-up surveys lost on average one percent of their initial weight.
Common barriers that prevented people from making changes included personally unsuitable tips, forgetting, being too busy, unusual circumstances such as vacations and emotional eating, according to the study.
"These results confirm that small, consistent changes in our daily eating behaviour can result in gradual weight loss and in developing healthier eating habits," said Wansink, marketing professor at Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.