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Sweets At Breakfast Help Dieters Lose Weight

My client Marcia was thrilled to read the recent New York Times headline: "Sweets at Breakfast May Help Dieters!" "Could it be true?" she asked. "Wouldn't that be wonderful!" said I... as I went about researching the study to respond to her life-or-death question (what a heavy responsibility!).

The study: The successful dieters ate a 600 calorie breakfast containing sweets, the unsuccessful dieters ate a 300 calorie breakfast - no sweets. Both groups ate a very low calorie diet overall. The study found the dieters who ate the 600 calories breakfast containing sweets were more likely to lose weight.

What's wrong with this picture? It is a huge leap to say the sweets caused weight loss or made weight loss easier. The difference in calories alone could account for the reduction in cravings and appetite for the 600-calorie-breakfast eaters, aiding their weight loss - not the fact that the 600 calorie breakfast contained doughnuts or cakes (claimed by the study's authors). Previous studies have found when people eat proportionately more calories earlier in the day, they eat fewer overall calories. This finding is verified through my 20-plus years of counseling people: a large, balanced breakfast controls appetite and helps people lose weight. Weight maintenance studies also confirm the importance of breakfast for lasting results.

How should the study have been designed to find out if sweets help dieters lose weight? For a valid comparison, both groups should have eaten an equal sized breakfast (600 calories), with the only difference being that one would contain sweets while the other wouldn't. This is the only way the study's authors could have made their sensational conclusion (sweets at breakfast help dieters lose weight). Disappointing? I know! But the good news is: You can enjoy a large, delicious breakfast and lose weight.

A skimpy 300 calorie breakfast, coupled with a very restrictive eating regimen, which was the design of this experiment, is bound to cause overeating – and studies have been verifying that restrictive dieting doesn't work, particularly in the long-term... over and over and over. So, the fact that this group of dieters had trouble losing weight is not surprising. This is the only conclusion this study can draw: restrictive dieting backfires.

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