As a massage therapist, maintaining a healthy body weight, flexibility, stamina and overall good health are key components to a long career. So, what is a massage therapist to do when invited to a restaurant that serves big, high-calorie meals? There is no need to fear: A new study indicates that individuals can eat out and maintain a healthy weight.

Investigators from The University of Texas at Austin enrolled 35 healthy, perimenopausal women aged 40 to 59 years who eat out frequently. Participants took part in a six-week program called Mindful Restaurant Eating, a weight-gain prevention intervention that helps develop the skills needed to reduce caloric and fat intake when eating out, according to a press release from Elsevier Health Sciences, which published the research.

“The focus of the program was on preventing weight gain in this population, not weight loss,” the press release noted. “It is important to prevent weight gain in this population as increasing abdominal waist circumference from weight gain is greater during the perimenopausal years, which in turn increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

Even though the focus was on weight maintenance, the researchers found that participants in the intervention group lost an average of almost four pounds over a six-week period, had lower average daily caloric and fat intake, had increased diet-related self-efficacy, and had fewer barriers to weight management when eating out, the press release noted.

The number of times that participants ate out did not significantly decrease, which means participants were able to successfully manage their weight while continuing their usual, frequent eating-out patterns, said Gayle M. Timmerman, Ph.D., R.N., the principal investigator of this study.

“Overall, the participants in the intervention group reduced their daily caloric intake by about 297 calories after completing the intervention, which would explain their weight loss,” Timmerman added. “Only part of the calorie reduction-about 124 calories-can be accounted for during eating out, indicating that fewer calories were also consumed at home.”

The study, “The Effect of a Mindful Restaurant Eating Intervention on Weight Management in Women,” was published in the January/February 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

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