Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Freshman Fifteen, Getting Married, and Other Weight and Diet Influences

"The Freshman 15" does not exist, at least at Cornell University. Researchers at Cornell studied 68 freshmen over their first 12 weeks of college. While the students did not gain 15, the did suffer from a "freshmen four," adding an average of 4.2 lbs [1].

Instead of going in-depth into a specific topic this week, I decided to keep matters light. Here are highlights from intriguing weight and diet-related studies:

  • Snacking at least 1.5 hours before a meal does not reduce food intake at the meal [2]. Researchers at Johns Hopkins fed men and women 30, 90, and 180 minutes before allowing them to eat ad libitum at a meal. The snack was the same size in all three pre-feedings. Only when fed 30 minutes before did the participants adjust how much they consumed during the meal. Essentially, if you're going to eat in an effort to limit your hunger at a following meal, have the snack as close to the meal as possible.

  • If you're trying to lose weight, eating with large groups of people should be least that's the take-home message from researchers in the department of psychology at Georgia State University [3]. People were observed eating meals by themselves and then in groups of differing quantities. A meal eaten alone averaged about 400 calories. With a group of four people, the average intake per person was 700 calories. The peak consumption was 800 calories per person, achieved with a group of eight or more people.
  • Your marriage and your weight have tied the knot. A two-year study at the University of Minnesota looked at weight changes in over 2,500 men and women [4]. Weight changes of the participants were strongly correlated with their spouses: if one gained or lost weight, the other was likely to do the same.  

  • In the same study, men and women who became married over the course of the two-year period gained weight. On the other hand, men and women who divorced during the study lost weight, with an especially large change noticed in women.
Obviously the social eating and marriage studies looked at associations, not causation, so please don't shun your friends and spouse in an effort to lose weight. However, do be mindful of your intake when out with large groups of friends, family, or others. I do think peer pressure is a strong underlying factor in these situations, with people consuming more alcohol or food to please or "fit in" with others.

I do give credit to the pre-feeding study. I have noticed that I don't seem to respond when trying to pre-feed as a "damage control method." Instead of eating before a meal with the goal of controlling overall intake, a better approach is to simply make better choices when eating out. A good example is avoiding bread and liquid calories while feasting on vegetables and natural proteins.

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