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The Secrets of Thin People

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Sang An
How they get there, how they stay there.

Thin people favor bulky foods.

Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, has done extensive research on “calorie density,” or the ratio of calories to the weight of food.

Simply put, foods with a high water content―fruits, vegetables, water-based soups and stews, and cooked whole grains―are low in calories but satiating. Most also contain lots of fiber (an apple has three grams; one cup of cooked barley has six), which fills you up.

Whether consciously or not, many thin people follow the strategy of starting out with a sizable soup or salad, which leads them to eat less for the rest of the meal. One Rolls-led study found that subjects who began a meal with a low-calorie salad―about 100 calories for three cups―were more likely to eat fewer total calories. “It subtracted about 12 percent of the calories from the meal,” she says. Foods with a lot of water, she adds, “can help you perceive that you’ve eaten more.” Drinking water with a meal, Rolls has found, doesn’t have the same effect. 


Thin people watch portion sizes.

No, most thin individuals don’t travel with a food scale and measuring cups or demand fat-gram counts from waiters.

But to keep an eye on what they eat without being obsessive, many focus on filling their plates with mostly fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. “No one ever got fat from a grilled shrimp,” says Stephen Gullo, Ph.D., a psychologist and the author of The Thin Commandments Diet (Rodale, $25, amazon.com).

They also use strategies such as buying just a single serving’s worth of food, eating portion-controlled frozen meals, passing up gargantuan-portion family-style restaurants, and using smaller-than-normal plates.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing study of how more than 5,000 people keep off the weight they’ve lost long-term, has found that successful weight maintainers tend to eat five small meals a day rather than three squares, which may make it easier to scale down portions.

  

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