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Do the Math: Count Bites to Lose Weight

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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