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Count This Instead of Calories to Lose Weight In 4 Weeks

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Thank your elementary school math teacher: Counting can help you lose weight. But focusing on calories and pounds may not actually be ideal. Rather, people who tallied all their bites lost around four pounds in just a month, reports a new study in Advances in Obesity, Weight Management & Control.

In the study, researchers from Brigham Young University instructed participants to make just one change in their diet: count everything. For a week, they counted the number of times they lifted food to their mouth, the number of sips they took of any liquid other than water, and the number of chomps they took throughout the day. After that, the group specifically committed to taking 20 to 30 percent fewer bites.

Four weeks later, without making any effort to eat fewer calories or healthier fare, the participants had lost weight. The researchers called counting bites “a doable, cost-effective option for the 70 percent of Americans who are overweight.” (Don't have a month? Try these 6 Weekend Weight Loss Tips to Slim Down.)

The most likely reason is that they gave their brain longer to register that they were full, thereby unintentionally reducing their calorie intake. But paying attention to every gulp and gnaw probably also helped participants become more mindful, which research has shown can help women lose weight.

Adding up every nibble, though, can be too rigid for some to reap the benefits. Participants who didn’t finish the experiment dropped out because they struggled with keeping up on counting their bites.

Luckily, there may be an even easier way to end up at the same place: When you sit down to eat, slow down. Past Chinese research has found that people consume about 12 percent fewer calories when they chewed each bite 40 times compared to 15. And a 2013 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that taking the time to chew your food and pausing in between bites helped people eat less in a single sitting and stay satisfied for a longer period of time—no math required.

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