This morning while I was pouring my coffee and half-listening to the news like I always do in the morning before work, something caught my ear as I am guessing it did millions across the country. Breaking news about losing weight! You don’t need to count calories anymore! My first reaction was “Yay!” I have been accused of wearing those rose-colored glasses. I do tend to immediately look at the good in things, without thinking. And this was another one of those times when it was too good to be true.
Nobody was going to say that counting calories was useless (which is what I was hoping). They were just going to throw out another carrot, another false hope for people desperate to lose weight, another gimmick that is probably going to make people do silly things that have nothing to do with making them healthier.
In case you did not have the TV on this morning or were otherwise disconnected from the virtual world (maybe you were traveling in Italy?) then you may not have heard about the new study that made almost every morning show announce “you don’t have to count calories!” So what is the new discovery? Apparently, it is counting bites. Yes, there was a small pilot study conducted at Brigham Young University that had subjects count the number of bites they took per day for a week (to get a baseline), then decrease it by 20-30% over 4 weeks without changing anything else (no increased exercise, no counting calories, etc). Of the 61 participants, only 41 completed the study (was it too hard to count bites? just like it is too hard to count calories?). Of those completing the study, there was a 3.4 pound weight loss over the course of the study. The authors point out that after the first week, when a baseline number of daily bites was determined, subjects gained weight, but then lost weight over the next 2 weeks, and maintained their weight with no further loss over the final 2 weeks. They also point out the limitations of the study, for instance it was a small sample size which was not comparable to the general population. All subjects had at least some college education, were Caucasian with family incomes greater than $50,000 and were likely highly motivated to lose weight.
One point made by the authors of the study was that counting bites “does allow an individual to be conscious of their eating habits, which is an idea that somewhat resembles “mindful eating” diet theory”. They clearly state that future research is needed with a larger, randomly selected study sample, longer intervention period, a control group, and longer follow up. They also point out that quality and health of the diet of participants was not looked at and this is important.
Yes, the quality of someones diet is important, especially if we want to focus on health verses weight. We don’t need to be “perfect” eaters, but we should care about health if we want to feel good. It is an individual’s choice, but counting bites, just like counting calories has nothing to do with promoting health. And it clearly does not resemble mindful, or intuitive, normal eating which is more about being in tune with your hunger and fullness.
So, it is just my opinion, but I am not a big fan of counting anything when it comes to eating and health. Counting bites, like counting calories, would feel like way too much thinking if you ask me. I am not sure if it would help you to be more in tune with your hunger and fullness or not. If you gobble up food fast and get a stomach ache on a regular basis, then, yes, slowing down might help. But counting bites? It just seems like another gimmick (well, that is how the news station came across, probably just to get people like me to hang around and hear the breaking news!) I greatly respect the researchers who piloted the study as they are part of all of those who are working hard to try to help. All research that contributes to our knowledge helps. Just remember to read the details and know that you are unique. Your story and your life deserves to be treated that way. Keep taking care of yourself, your body, and your mind. And if you like the idea of counting bites, go right ahead. You know what is best for you (and I would love to hear about it!) In the meantime, check out the original article here: Bite Diet Study
I am kind of glad the news station was dramatic. I might not have heard about the study so soon otherwise. And with the time change, I still was not late for work : )