Why are some people mindlessly slim while other struggle all their lives to shed the excess pounds?

New research from Cornell Food and Brand Lab uncovered certain secrets to staying lean without following a strict diet or sweating it out, including cooking one’s food at home and approaching eating with pleasure instead of guilt.

The Global Healthy Weight Registry – formerly known as the Slim by Design Registry – surveyed adults who stayed within a healthy body weight throughout their lives, having them answer a series of 92 questions about their eating habits, exercise, and daily routine.

The researchers divided the subjects into two groups: 112 individuals who are “mindlessly slim” and reported that they did not implement strict dieting, and 35 who regularly and consciously watched what they ate.

Study author and Cornell Food and Brand Lab director Dr. Brian Wansink said they wanted to see the health behaviors that differed between the two groups.

“We wanted to find the small or simple behaviors that might have a big impact,” he says.

According to Dr. Wansink, the study is aimed at changing one’s food radius or eating environment. “[This is] so that you, your kids and even your neighbors will eat less and eat better,” he adds.

The team found that the mindlessly slim veered away from conventional weight loss or maintenance advice. Their strategies included consuming high-quality food, home cooking, and heeding their internal cue to stay slim.

They also did not indicate feelings of guilt when overeating, reflecting an enjoyable mode of eating.

And what did the mindlessly slim eat? Of these individuals, 61 percent cited chicken as their favorite meat, while 65 percent ate vegetables at dinner every day. During breakfast, half of them feasted on fruits and vegetables, while 31 percent incorporated eggs in the meal.

In addition, 33 percent are non-alcohol drinkers and 37 percent say no to soft drinks.

Anna-Leena Vuorinen, lead researcher and former visiting scholar at the Cornell lab, considered the findings encouraging.

“[T]hey imply that instead of putting restrictions on one’s diet and avoiding favorite foods, weight gain could be prevented early on by learning to listen to inner cues and putting emphasis on the quality instead of the quantity of food,” explains Vuorinen.

The study findings were presented at Obesity Week 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

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