The BBC’s 10 Scientific Ways To Lose Weight

Michael Mosley
Michael Mosley on the BBC

The BBC decided to research weight loss and they shared their results in the program 10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight.

Medical journalist Michael Mosley presented the program which set out to determine which methods of weight loss really work, based on biology.

The show was produced and directed by Chris Salt. The documentary first looked at visceral fat, the internal fat that surrounds the internal organs, and is very unhealthy. Visceral fat can cause heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. A larger waist is the first sign that you are carrying too much visceral fat.

The program started with Michael Mosley having a scan to measure fat and learning that he was carrying a lot of visceral fat. This made him more determined to lose weight to ensure that he did not develop diabetes like his father did before him.

Skip Meals to Skip Calories?

Many people make this mistake when they decide to lose weight. Science helps to explain why skipping breakfast often means you do not lose weight. When you are hungry your brain actually gets more “excited” when you see high calorie foods.

Your brain makes you want to eat the worst food, which leads to snacking and overeating. Curbing hunger is the key to managing calories and losing weight. A hormone called grehlin sends a signal to the brain when hunger starts and this makes us want to eat.

As a result we crave high calorie foods. Michael Mosley decided that he wanted to lose about 5 pounds but wanted to ensure that his weight loss was painless and did not involve too much exercise.

He still did a little exercise and stayed active, but the focus was on managing his appetite to learn to eat less. Here are the main changes that he made to aid weight loss. All are simple changes that we call can make.

1. Eat from a Smaller Plate

Reduce plate size from 12 inches to 10 inches and on average you will eat 22% less food. Various studies have shown that the more food you give someone, the more food they eat. So simply by serving less food on smaller plates you will start to reduce calories.

Sometimes it is simply little changes to the way that we eat that can help the most when it comes to losing weight.

Research has shown that eating from a smaller plate helps people to lose weight, and can prevent childhood obesity. When you have a large plate you tend to fill it, and all too often people eat without really thinking about how much they are eating. You just eat all that is on the plate.

Using smaller plates at home means that you put less food on your plate. You may be thinking, “but I will not eat enough!“. This is not the case! A smaller plate will still contain all the calories that your require, plus all the essential nutrients and vitamins. It really is a case that most people eat too much in every meal.

However, the size of the plate and the portion of food is not the only trick. More recent studies have shown that eating slower also encourages people to eat less. When you eat quickly, your body does not have time to send the signal to your brain informing you that you are full, and need no further food.

By slowing down a little, you can feel full with less food. In a study on children by Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, plates were placed on scales and children could see how much they were eating, children started to eat slower and less.

Essentially a machine told the children when they were removing food from their plates too quickly, encouraging them to slow down. On average children ate 7% less food when they slowed down their eating.

Weighing the food as it is eaten is not really possible for most people though. So here are a few tips on eating less:

  1. Use smaller plates, especially for children. Do not serve children adult portions.
  2. Use smaller plates for yourself too. You do not need those giant plates!
  3. Do not eat in front of the television. You tend to eat faster and think less about your food when watching television or a film, and you are not likely to feel full at the right time.
  4. If you are a fast eater (people generally tell you if you are!) then eat with a slow eater, and match their speed. Learn to eat slowly.

2. Count Calories

Learn how many calories are in different foods. Most people eat too much calories just by eating high calories options.

A black coffee only has 10 calories. A single pepperoni pizza can contain 1400 calories. Just by choosing low-calorie foods can halve your daily calorie intake.

3. Slow Metabolism Problem?

Why are some people overweight even though they eat healthy food and are active? Many people say that they have tried every diet and do lots of exercise but yet still gain weight. So, many people blame on a slow metabolism.

However, most people do not have a slow metabolism at all. Being overweight due to a slow metabolism is just a myth, and an excuse, for many overweight people. So why some of us are overweight?

The actress Debbie Chazen was monitored to determine why she was overweight, as she was adamant that she did not overeat – she blamed her slow metabolism.

Debbie was asked to keep a food diary and what was found was that she was actually eating far more food each day than she needed. She recorded in her food diary that she was eating 1100 calories a day, but in reality she was actually eating 3000 calories a day.

The BBC reported that studies have shown that people tend to under report how much they eat by up to 50%. Healthy food is full of calories – all food is calories. So too much fruit, salads, vegetables, bread, pasta and rice all can cause weight gain.

4. Avoid Hunger With Protein

The key to losing weight and keeping it off is to avoid hunger and some foods are good at reducing hunger. Protein rich foods, like lean meat, eggs and fish, help you to feel full for longer.

10% more protein in your breakfast can reduce hunger, which means you even eat less for lunch.

Tip – Eat eggs for breakfast every day. When you eat protein your body releases more of the hormone called PYY which helps you not to feel hungry. Protein switches off your urge to eat!

5. Eat Soup

Eating soup makes you feel full for longer, even if the ingredients are exactly the same. So rather than eat chicken and vegetables, add water and make a soup. Same calories, but with solid food your stomach starts to shrink quicker and you feel hungry quicker.

As soon as your stomach is empty hormones start to send signals to the brain asking for more food. Research by Abdou Himaya (1998) revealed that “there was a significantly greater suppression of hunger after the chunky soup than after the vegetables and water“.

Why does soup keep you fuller for longer? If you eat solid food plus water, the water passes quickly leaving just a small amount of food in the stomach which triggers the hormones that make you feel hunger.

By eating soup you just stay full for longer as the water is not removed separately as it is with a drink. Tip – Have soup for lunch every day.

6. Resist Temptation

Studies have shown when people are offered more attractive food they eat more of it. Increased variety leads to more eating.

This is an evolutionary advantage. See the additional references below for more on this. However, studies show that when we have a variety of food to choose from we can eat 30% more food. Tip – Avoid buffets as they are bad!

7. Eat Dairy Calcium

If you eat dairy calcium the fats in the food combine with the other food you eat and the body cannot absorb it, so it passes through you.

You literally just excrete more food rather than use its energy. In a study it was shown that if you eat more dairy calcium you excrete twice as much fat which means you absorb less energy. Tip – Eat cheese, milk and yogurt with each meal. But do not exceed calories.

8. Exercise Every Day

How effective is exercise? And what sort of exercise is best? Michael Mosley showed that moderate exercise does indeed help us to lose weight.

By walking for 90 minutes you only burn around 19 grams of fat (190 calories, less than 1 sandwich). But, it was shown that after exercise he had burned an additional 49 grams of fat during the night.

Why is this? During exercise we use up our carbohydrate stores. Afterwards our bodies start to break down fat reserves to replenish carbohydrate to provide the body with energy. This is often called the after burn effect.

9. Move!

Simply moving more, walking about, using stairs, not sitting down unless you have to, you burn a lot more energy each day.

In the study an overweight woman burned 240 calories more by being more active than she did on a lazy day. This could equal weight loss of around 12kg (around 26 pounds) in one year.

10. Do All The Above

Really the best way to lose weight is to make many changes to your lifestyle rather than just doing one thing. So use all the tips above.

Eat breakfast each day, with proteins. Have soup for lunch. Eat cheese, drink milk and have yogurt. Do some exercise each day – without fail! Be more active, do not just watch television or sit at your desk all day.

Count those calories, do not overeat. This is how you lose weight. It is proven by science and demonstrated by Michael Mosley and the BBC.

You can learn more about how the BBC aids weight loss here: See also – unfortunately the actual documentary is no longer available on the BBC.

Our guide to start losing weight has much more information on diet and exercise, you can find it here.

2 Comments on “The BBC’s 10 Scientific Ways To Lose Weight”

  1. I’m sorry, but this is not in line with scientific research. Meta-analyses have been done discrediting all these theorems. Sweden, Canada and to a great extent, the notorious USA dietary guidelines, have made an about turn on low-fat, calories in/out and high carbohydrate diets. These hypotheses have been poisoning humanity for decades. Please stop the obesity and diabetes pandemics!

  2. MotleyHealth says:

    The BBC not in line with science! Outrageous! But, none of the above suggested a low fat, high carb diet. The opposite in fact. More protein (and with it, usually some fat too – i.e. beef, eggs, dairy) and healthy, low-GI carbs, rather than stodgy starch. As for calories, it may not be cool to say “count calories”, but many studies have shown that it works – nobody (under 3 foot) ever got fat on 1200 kcal a day (or thereabouts).

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