Are you one of those frustrated dieters who’ve “tried it all?” If so, you’d probably roll your eyes at the idea of losing weight simply by limiting lunch through portion control. Sure, it sounds reasonable, but depriving yourself at one meal would translate into eating more at the next, right? Apparently not, according to brand new research, which found that eating less at lunch can result in real weight loss, without hunger or overeating at other meals.
In a study published this month in Appetite, 17 university student volunteers (10 females, 7 males, average age 25) participated in a five-week eating study. Cornell researchers provided all meals and snacks for volunteers while measuring food intake Monday through Friday. In week one, students were allowed to eat whatever they wanted from a buffet. For the next two weeks, half that group chose from a selection of five commercially available portion-controlled meals, each of which was about half the calories (or around 250 total) as the “all you can eat” meal.
The next two weeks, the groups swapped roles, with the portion controllers going back to the buffet, and the unrestricted eaters switching to the limited lunch options. The results were surprisingly positive: Not only did limiting lunch have NO impact on post-meal fullness, there was no overcompensating on calories at later meals. “The results confirm that humans do not regulate energy intake with any precision,” said lead study author David Levitsky, Ph.D.. “Over a year, such a regimen could result in losing at least 25 pounds.” As previously demonstrated, the obverse is also true: Women who eat a big meal at lunch end up consuming 56% more total calories throughout the course of the day. For the more ambitious, alternate-day fasting (every other day you eat a portion-controlled lunch and nothing else), can deliver even more significant results.