Okay, so maybe we’ve got this whole weight-loss thing the wrong way around, seeing how much trouble we’re having. Maybe instead of following the latest fad diets or trying to keep up with what scientists are telling us we should eat, we should just, you know, make like slim people.
That’s the thinking behind a new “Slim by Design” study conducted by researchers at the Cornell University Food & Brand Lab. They set up an online registry to investigate the characteristics and behaviours of people who are within their healthy weight range and who don’t struggle with weight problems, with one question in mind: what’s their secret?
Well, it turns out, the secret is that there is no secret. There are no freaky palaeo-style or otherwise shocking dietary revelations here that could help kickstart any gimmicky new food regimen craze. What these people do is live healthy lives, eating the right kinds of foods (and responsibly).
In fact, what’s so great about this research, which is being presented at Obesity Week 2015 in Los Angeles, is that it backs up what we already know. We’ve posted the full infographic below, but here are some of the key findings.
Nearly two thirds of the respondents – 147 people in total, 118 being female – eat vegetables with dinner every day (63 percent). The majority also prefers chicken over red meat (61 percent). They’re veggie-loving at lunch as well as at dinner, with more than a third of the slim people surveyed enjoying a salad (35 percent) in the middle of the day.
But despite the integration of vegetables in their diets, these people aren’t for the most part vegetarians, with only 7 percent identifying as such. Nor do they abstain from other pleasurable things. 81 percent of slim respondents drank alcohol, and while the majority enjoy soft drinks (65 percent), more would opt for a diet soda (33 percent) over a Coke (10 percent). They snack, of course, much like the rest of us, but do so with healthy food (fruit at 39 percent, nuts at 20 percent).
If this all sounds a little obvious, that’s a good thing. It means that the core science of what doctors and dieticians have been telling us all our lives has actually sunk into our brains – we just need to grab ahold of this fundamental food knowledge and act on it.
“One important take away from this study is that a very high rate of slim people actually eat breakfast instead of skipping, which is consistent with previous research on the importance of breakfast,” said lead author Anna-Leena Vuorinen from the VTT Technical Research Centre Of Finland and visiting scholar at the Food and Brand Lab. “But what stands out is that they not only ate breakfast, but that they ate healthful foods like fruits and vegetables."
In terms of breakfasts, Vuorinen isn’t wrong. Nearly half of the respondents consume fruit at breakfast (46 percent), which is another reason you might want to reconsider that daily bacon muffin habit. Eggs could also be a better option at breakfast time (and were eaten by 31 percent of those surveyed).
But what’s also interesting apart from the dietary analysis is seeing how exercise fits in. These people aren’t total gym junkies, with many (38 percent) exercising between one to three days per week, and 10 percent not exercising at all.
So take heart! This stuff works for these people. Nobody said it was easy and there are no guarantees, but maybe it will work for you too.
See the full infographic below (high-res is available here).