Do the Math: Count Bites to Lose Weight

by Sandy Todd Webster on Jan 14, 2016

Food for Thought

When it comes to behavior change, creating awareness can be half the battle. We’re well acquainted with counting our steps as a means of monitoring our daily movement habits, so it’s not much of a stretch to understand how counting our bites of food could also prove to be beneficial.

Researchers from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, department of health sciences, discovered in a pilot study that subjects who counted their bites over a month’s time lost roughly 4 pounds. In a simple reduction exercise, participants counted the number of bites they took each day and then committed to taking 20%–30% fewer bites over the next 4 weeks. Those who stuck with the task saw results despite changing nothing else about their eating and exercising routine.

“This study confirms what we already knew: consuming less food makes a difference,” said lead study author Josh West, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of health science. “We’re not advocating people starve themselves; what we’re talking about is people eating less than they’re currently eating.”

West and his coauthors concluded that as a matter of priority, people who are overweight need to be more focused on the quantitative aspects of food and less on the qualitative aspects.

The experiment asked 61 participants to count how often they lifted food to their mouths and how many gulps of liquid they took, other than water. At the end of each day, the subjects texted or emailed their totals to researchers.

The 41 test subjects who finished the experiment produced encouraging results, but more research is needed to validate the approach as a strategy for long-term success, the authors admitted. They added that they believe counting bites is a doable, cost-effective option for the 70% of Americans who are overweight.

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.