30 June 1998

Want to Lose Weight? Buy a Notepad

The link between bingeing and the World Cup may be scientifically proven, but researchers have suggested a way to battle the bulge come Pig Out Season. Bring paper and pencil, they say, and start taking notes.

According to psychologists Raymond Baker of the St Francis Medical Centre and Daniel Kirschenbaum of the Centre for Behavioural Medicine in Chicago, only the most diligent self-monitors among even experienced weight watchers are able to avoid piling on the pounds during food-oriented holiday weeks.

As reported in the July issue of the American Psychology Association's journal Health Psychology, the researchers compared weight changes in 38 subjects per week during three holiday periods (Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah and New Year's Eve) versus seven non-holiday weeks. Perhaps not surprisingly, participants gained 500 percent more weight during the food-fests. Significantly, however, only the most meticulous - some might say anally retentive - of self-monitors (the ones who recorded every calorie consumed) avoided massive holiday gain.

The authors note that "it may take nearly perfect self-monitoring to buffer the effects of certain high-risk situational challenges." This, and related studies, suggests that taming the formidable biological challenges of weight control requires an almost superhuman degree of attention, control and concentration - especially when it's England v Argentina and the chips, dips and beer are calling.