Dieters who struggle with the question of how much they can eat and still lose weight might think of calories as money and body weight as a bank account.
"Simply add to the bank account (body-weight account) by the number of calories consumed and subtract by the number of calories burned during exercise and activity. If the average calorie balance is negative, the result is weight loss. If it's positive, the result is weight gain," said Shade, who participated in the research while a graduate student in Fred Hutchinson's Cancer Prevention Research Program.
"Any amount of exercise greater than what you are doing currently will help toward weight loss if your calorie intake remains stable, but if you decrease calories and increase exercise, you'll lose faster," she said.
"For a myriad of health reasons it makes sense to get plenty of moderate, aerobic exercise and eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy products with a reasonable amount of protein and beneficial (non-saturated) fats," she said, "but for pure weight loss, it's mostly about total calories consumed."
Shade offers the following tips for losing weight and keeping it off:
Eat only when hungry.
When eating at home, take smaller portions than usual; go back for more if you are still hungry.
When eating out, ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal and put half of the food in the box before you start eating.
If you decide to splurge on a donut or pastry, throw half of it away before you start eating. "What's more important ; half a donut or your health?" Shade said.
When snacking, don't eat from a large container (a big bowl of popcorn or a large bag of chips, for example). Instead, remove the amount you will eat and put the container away before you start.
Eat at home. Studies show that meals consumed at home are usually lower in calories than restaurant meals.
Don't eat in front of the television. Studies show that people eat larger amounts and less-nutritious foods in front of the tube.
Eat smaller but more-frequent meals to avoid becoming ravenous between meals, which can lead to eating too much too fast.
Include at least one non-starchy fruit or vegetable serving in every meal or snack.
Choose whole grains over refined grains (whole-grain bread versus white bread, for example) because whole grains are more nutritious and satisfying.
Avoid beverages with empty calories such as soft drinks and "juice drinks," which are mostly sugar.
Avoid "fancy" blended, sweetened coffee drinks and instead choose a latte with nonfat or low-fat milk.
Get plenty of sleep. Studies indicate that sleep loss increases the levels hormones such as cortisol, growth hormone and insulin, which can promote fat storage.