Obesity has become a national health crisis in the United States. Carrying about significant amounts of extra weight significantly increases the risk of several serious and potentially deadly health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The costs of treating obesity-related illnesses puts a severe strain on the healthcare system as well, which negatively impacts everyone. When it comes to losing weight, we hear a lot about eating right and exercising more and these are important no doubt; but, as researchers study this problem more in depth, it is becoming clear that there are many factors at play when it comes to our weight, such as how much sleep we get and whether or not we have sufficient levels of certain substances in our body, such as vitamin D. Two recent studies have uncovere some relatively simple strategies that may be important weapons in your weight loss arsenal.

Timing of Carbohydrates

In recent years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight loss. Truth is, you need them to function optimally; but, carbohydrate-rich foods do have the potential to derail weight loss efforts when they are not integrated into the diet properly. Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem conducted a study that provided some interesting findings when it comes to carbohydrate and weight loss. The study was born of the observation of the changes in levels of the hormones that affect appetite in Muslims during Ramadan, which involves fasting all day and eating a high-carbohydrate meal in the evening.

For the study, 78 participants were divided into two groups, one following a diet where carbohydrate intake was concentrated in the evening and the other group following a diet where carbohydrates were consumed throughout the day. Researchers found that eating carbohydrates in the evening produced favorable changes in leptin (the hormone that helps your body recognize feelings of fullness), ghrelin ( the hormone involved in stimulating appetite) and adiponectin( a hormone involved in the regulation of insulin—which affects fat storage—and believed to influence obesity.) Participants reported lower hunger scores and greater feelings of satiety; other favorable changes include increased weight loss, decreased abdominal fat, better lipid profiles and reduced inflammation in the body.  So, when it comes to planning your meals, timing your intake of carbohydrates may be an important part of the process.

Mindful Eating Can Aid Weight Loss

When it comes to our weight, one of our biggest stumbling blocks is mindless eating—we do not pay attention to whether we are hungry or not, whether or not we are beginning to feel full. We just shovel the food in our mouths, whether we are truly hungry or not. Lots of things lead to this problem, such as feeling rushed or stressed. Our failure to tune into our body and listen to what it is telling us is a major cause of our health woes, namely being overweight.

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study comparing the benefits of learning to eat mindfully (consuming food based on physical cues from the body regarding hunger and fullness), with traditional education on matters of nutrition, in people with diabetes. The education group received the typical information when it comes to dieting—how much food you should eat, what types of carbohydrates and fats to choose, what to look for on food labels, etc… The group practicing mindfulness was not given this type of information or told to meet any specific nutritional goals; rather, they were trained in mindfulness meditation and instructed on how to tune into their bodies when selecting food and portions, and deciding when to stop eating. Researchers found that both approaches produced similar results in terms of amount of weight loss and changes in blood sugar levels.

When it comes to losing weight, we spend so much time doing things like trying to change things on the outside or researching which weight loss program is best; these sorts of things are important no doubt, but it seems that making the effort to get in touch with our bodies better can make this journey a whole lot easier. This study suggests that simply learning to tune into our bodies, and block all the other cues we receive that tell us to eat even if we may not be hungry, we can lose weight much more easily.  It is all too easy to react to outside stimuli that trigger the desire to eat without us even stopping to think if we are hungry—we do not have to finish everything on our plate just because it was served to us, we do not have to eat 4 times more than we normally do because we are at a holiday party with oodles of food laid out before us.