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Just One Low Calorie Meal a Day Pays Off

Sep 8, 2011

Some dieters say that eating less at one meal is ineffective, because people compensate by eating more at other meals. Not so, say the results of a new study.

According to the study, in fact eating one reduced-calorie meal a day, and then eating what you want the rest of the day, may be an effective weight-loss technique.

For two weeks, researchers had 17 men and women eat all their meals and snacks, as much as they wanted, at a buffet where the exact quantities consumed could be weighed and caloric intake calculated. Then for the next two weeks, the participants ate a 200-calorie lunch, a commercially available food like a Kashi bar or a Lean Pocket. But the rest of the day, they ate whatever they wanted from the buffet.

Not counting lunch, the participants consumed 1,568 calories on days they had the 200-calorie lunch and 1,560 on days when they did not — an insignificant difference. But over all, they consumed 245 fewer calories on low-calorie lunch days. The result of that — unsurprisingly — was weight loss: an average of 1.1 pounds per participant in two weeks.

“Most people believe there is a set point for body weight,” said David A. Levitsky, the lead author of the report and a professor of nutrition at Cornell University. “The prevailing notion is that if you create a deficit, you’re going to make up for it later. In this study, we found no evidence of any compensation.”

journal Appetite, Oct. 2011