Known as the “small changes approach,” these simple steps will help people manage their weight.
Opt for a salad or vegetables for meals
Loughborough: Between the ages of 20 and 55, most adults gain between 0.5 and 1 kg per year, which could lead to overweight or obesity in some people. This weight gain is usually not the result of overeating large amounts of food.
Instead, it’s usually caused by consuming a small amount – around 100-200 extra calories – more than what is needed each day.
The good news is that we may be able to prevent ourselves from gaining weight by making small changes in our diet or in our physical activity. Our recent study found that eating 100-200 calories less, or burning an additional 100-200 calories each day, may be enough to keep us from gaining weight in the long run.
It’s called a “small changes approach,” which was first proposed in 2004 by James Hill, an American obesity expert, to help people manage their weight.
Many small studies have examined the use of the small changes approach for weight management. We combined the results of these small studies into a larger review to obtain an average (and statistically more reliable) result of the effect of this approach on weight management. We looked at 19 trials – 15 of which tested a small-change approach to preventing weight gain, and four that tested this approach for weight loss.
We analyzed data from nearly 3,000 people in the weight gain prevention trials and 372 people in the weight loss trials. Participants were between 18 and 60 years old, 65% of whom were women.
In those who used the small changes approach to prevent weight gain, we found that participants gained almost 1 kg less than those who did not use this approach over an eight to 14 month period. . The 1 kg difference was statistically significant, meaning it was unlikely to be the result of chance.
While the small changes approach has been shown to be effective in preventing weight gain, it has not been shown to be effective in weight loss.
The trials we looked at used a number of different small changes to help participants prevent weight gain. Here are some of the effective techniques used in these trials:
- Get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the rest of the way. You might end up walking 10 to 15 minutes longer, which could help you burn up to 60 calories. Doing this on the way home could also mean you’re burning up to 120 calories.
- Skip the chips that come on the side. Small portions of baked potato chips served with main meals contain hundreds of calories. Saying no to these – or opting for a side salad or vegetables – could help you cut your daily calorie intake by up to 200 calories.
- Switch from a regular drink to a diet drink. While it might not taste the same, this change could reduce your calorie intake by 145 calories. However, recent research suggests that switching to diet drinks may not be ideal for weight management – so it’s best to choose to drink water instead of your regular soft drink.
- Take an Americano instead of a latte. Milk from a regular latte can contain up to 186 calories, so switching to an Americano could prevent weight gain.
- Add a tablespoon less oil while cooking. A tablespoon of olive oil, for example, contains just over 100 calories, so using less can be a way to avoid extra calories.
- If you have something sweet, save half for tomorrow. Eating just half a KitKat, for example, could cut your calorie intake by around 102 calories – and give you something to look forward to tomorrow.
- Take a potato or two less in your roast dinner. A medium roasted potato can contain up to 200 calories, so be careful how many you put on your plate.
- Make phone appointments while walking. You could burn an additional 100 calories if you opted for a 30-minute phone call on the go.
- Avoid sweets. Saying no to cakes, cookies, and other sweets could easily help you cut an additional 100-200 calories from your diet – maybe more, depending on the food.
- Take your dog for an extra 30 minute brisk walk each day. The dog will appreciate it and you can burn over 150 calories.
The small changes approach has many benefits for weight management. First, small changes are easier to integrate into everyday life than big ones. For example, it’s easier to eat 100-200 calories less per day than it is to eat 500 calories less each day (basically a full meal).
Small changes are also easier to maintain over the long term, which is essential for weight management. And, if people are successful in making these small changes, it can lead them to make bigger changes in their lives.