HELSINKI, Finland — Forget about dieting and counting calories. Simply keeping a regular eating schedule may help manage weight long-term better, according to a new study.

It may sound counterintuitive, but researchers from the University of Helsinki found that dieting and irregular eating habits actually increased a person’s likelihood of gaining weight.

Diet, weight loss
It may sound counterintuitive, but researchers discovered that dieting and irregular eating habits actually increased a person’s likelihood of gaining weight in the long run.

“Often, people try to prevent and manage excess weight and obesity by dieting and skipping meals. In the long term, such approaches seem to actually accelerate getting fatter, rather than prevent it,” explains researcher Ulla Kärkkäinen, a nutritional therapist at the school, in a university release.

Kärkkäinen and her team conducted their study on weight management using data from the “FinnTwin 16” study, an extensive collection of data from over 4,900 young men and women. The study cohort answered surveys indicating weight change factors at the age of 24 and again at the age of 34.

The authors found the vast majority of people gained weight during the decade between the surveys. Only 7.5% of women and 3.8% of men lost weight during that period. Factors affecting weight gain varied in intensity in men and women, but for both genders, dieting and irregular eating habits were prominent factors.

“Generally speaking, weight management guidance often boils down to eating less and exercising more. In practice, people are encouraged to lose weight, whereas the results of our extensive population study indicate that losing weight is not an effective weight management method in the long run,” says Kärkkäinen.

The researchers say that women also showed to be more at risk for weight gain if they drank sweetened beverages frequently, had at least two children, or if they showed low satisfaction with their lives. Smoking proved to be the most significant alternate factor for men.

Conversely, women lowered their odds for weight struggles if they exercised regularly; while having a higher level of education or greater weight at the beginning of the study period were factors that protected men.

The study suggests that instead of focusing on the number of pounds we lose, we should maintain regular eating habits as long as possible.

“Our findings demonstrate that weight management would benefit from an increased focus on individual differences, as well as perceiving the factors that impact human wellbeing and the sense of meaning in life as a broader whole,” she says.

The full study was published in the April 2018 edition of the journal Eating Behaviors.

About Ben Renner

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  1. thatotherguy says:

    So much for my beer and bacon diet plan.

    1. WagTheDawg says:

      Bike ride 50 miles every day (about 4 hours), and you can eat all the bacon and beer you can handle and more, and, after 6 weeks, you’ll STILL lose any weight you need to lose and you’ll feel like Superman!

  2. Robert Stafford says:

    It took a STUDY for this . Hell , I could’ve told em that for free .

  3. Gorgo says:

    I call BS. I have been dieting for 16 months. Fasting is a huge part of my program. I have lost 65 lbs. and am now off my 3 shots a day insulin regime. I fast 16 hours a day. I eat yogurt and fruits and veggies during the day. I eat what ever I want for dinner at 6. My sugar levels went from 380 to 85 to 125 with no insulin. My weight has gone from 290 lbs to 222 this morning. Still would like to lose another 30 lbs, 6′ tall. i do not eat from 6 pm till 12 noon.

    1. moinsd says:

      Agree, this sounds like more junk science to me, as in “correlation = causation”. I’m with you, intermittent fasting has worked wonders for me, and I’ve been doing it for 4 years now.

      1. Gorgo says:

        Me and my friend have both been using the same approach. We have both lost about the same amount. I feel great, not tired, I walk a lot and walking is much easier, especially the hills which used to get me so winded. It takes time.

      2. solid12345 says:

        You have to eat like the human body was designed, primitive man didn’t have a hearty 3-course meal on a daily basis. We need to give our stomach time to digest the meal, it also makes it easier to be active and move your body when you’re not feeling full and bloated.

      3. Gorgo says:

        Yes, I do not get hungry like I used too, stomach must have shrunk.

      4. Gorgo says:

        I really never thought of the perspective of primitive man. It makes sense, heck, no Thanksgiving feasts right. I probably eat 50% of what I used to eat. Maybe less. I can remember eating a whole slab of ribs, now 2 to 3 bones is enough.

      5. Sam says:

        Primitive man probably had more feasts and famines….not a constant diet.

      6. Gorgo says:

        Their feasts did not include pies.

      7. Sam says:

        It is very important to make a distinction between fasting and skipping a meal. Skipping a meal will make insulin resistance worse. Fasting will make insulin resistance better.

      8. moinsd says:

        Doesn’t make sense. By what biological mechanism would simply skipping a meal make one more insulin resistant, especially since insulin is not being produced during the skipped meal? The only way the study would make sense is if people skipping meals were more prone to overeating when they do eat again, but that’s hardly a new discovery.

    2. Sam says:

      Put the stress on “each person is different.” Also, put emphasis on what will reduce insulin resistance naturally…that would be…eat NO processed carbohydrates, especially anything with sugar or starch.

  4. Anthony says:

    Well this article is either lacking a lot of data for the study or the study was worthless.

    Almost everyone will naturally gain weight between 24-34 years of age. Your bodily naturally slows it’s metabolism during this time. Not to mention woman that have kids during that time. No Duh.

  5. ChrisLongski says:

    The famine [or] “lean times” response of the body — learned it many years ago in anthropology. Hope they didn’t spend a lot of money on this…

  6. WagTheDawg says:

    In 1976, as part of USA’s Bicentennial celebration, 4,000 people bicycled along a trail across America in a ride called Bikecentennial ’76. Half of them biked the whole trail … 4,200 miles, with most averaging 70 miles per day, with every 10th day off.

    After 3 weeks of riding and eating mostly junk food and lots of it, nobody had lost any weight. But they had worked through all the pain (butt, hands, feet, knees, back, neck). During the 2nd three weeks, EVERYONE lost all their excess fat and were lean and hard and strong.

    At age 35 and 6’2″, I went from 211 to 183 pounds. For the last 6 weeks of the ride, my weight stayed at 183, so I assume this was my body’s “set point” … my perfect, healthy weight. Riders were from numerous countries and aged from 4 to 89, and they all had similar results.

    So it seems that biking for 6 weeks at 70 miles per day (or perhaps only 50 miles per day might do it), with every 10th day off, will do the trick for anyone who can handle it. One thing to remember is that if you eat healthily on the ride, you will likely continue that habit afterwards.

    And it need not be a 2,000 mile route. You can achieve the same thing by riding 25 or 35 miles daily to the next town from home, have lunch, then ride back home. Do that for 6 weeks, and your fat problem is solved.

    How do I know that over 1,000 people on that ride had the same weight loss experience as I did? Because those people were thoroughly tested near the start and end of the ride at universities in Eugene, OR and Charlottesville, VA, and the results were published in a white paper detailing the incredible changes made to their bodies on that ride.

  7. Southern_Cross says:

    Odd, I cut back to 1 low calorie meal per day a week and 2 days ago, I’ve lost 15 pounds, down to 209.

    Seems to work for those of us not in academia.

  8. Jason says:

    Remember when they said that eggs and coffee will kill you, now it will not. This stuff changes. Just eat in moderation and be active. Eat well, stay fit and die anyway!

  9. Jason says:

    In my house loading the dishwasher means buying me a bottle of vodka!

  10. Steve and Becky says:


  11. Not Applicable says:

    WTF is this BS? I lost over 70 lbs and cured my diabetes and chronic kidney/gallbladder pain by dieting and water fasting.

  12. Teacher of Truth says:

    My dad created the Minimum Daily Requirement for vitamins, C rations and K rations. He never took a vitamin pill. He said “There are not bad foods, only bad diets!” Of course I became a junk food junkie. When I had a fight with my wife, she ran for the bar, I for the fridge. IN 1999 I had two heart attacks. All my arteries were no less than 70% occluded. I joined Overeaters Anonymous at 212 pounds. I now weigh 148 pounds. I recently took a stress test and my heart registered as a marathon runner or ice hockey player. Andre Churchwell, head of cardiology at Vanderbilt, calls me Miracle Man and tells me I am in the lowest risk category, that everyone I meet is more likely to drop dead of a heart attack than am I! If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired in wrestling with weight issues, check out OA.org. It will save your life and improve your relationships. It is a 12-step program for folks like me whose drugs of choice are fat and sugar. The program doesn’t cost money, you will make lifelong friends, and your relationship with food will be altered FOREVER! I used to say “I have never missed a meal in my life, and I never will!” Now, oftentimes, I have my first meal at 2pm. Not because that is my intention, but because food no longer talks to me (“Over here, Doug, you know you will feel better after you eat this bag of chips!”) I know two women who once weighed 400 pounds; they have weighed 120 pounds for twenty years and counting. Other programs put you on the yoyo. Take off twenty, put on thirty, take of thirty, put on forty… OA changes your relationship with food. You become “normal” — whatever that is. There are online meetings, telephone meetings, and lots of ordinary meetings. But the Lord is present at all of them, and helps you do what you could never do alone. Try it, you’ll like it.