UT professor cooks up new dieting program

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Dr. Gayle Timmerman, Assistant Dean and associate professor at the School of Nursing, has created a program which helps women “eat mindfully” at restaurants in order to prevent weight gain.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

On-the-go eating can lead to more weight gain than cooking at home does, but some of that weight gain can be spared by eating out smartly.

Gayle Timmerman, associate professor in the School of Nursing, developed a program called Mindful Restaurant Eating. In the study, Timmerman took 35 women ages 40-59 who ate out at least three times a week and taught them different healthy eating techniques to minimize the caloric intake when dining out. The end result was that women maintained and, in some cases, lost weight. Her techniques encourage focusing on sight, smell and texture of foods to increase enjoyment and decrease intake.

Timmerman said she got the idea for the program when she was doing research on restaurant eating patterns.

“I noticed that when people eat out they eat significantly more calories than they do at home,” Timmerman said. “If they do not do something to compensate for that, they will start to gain weight and they need to make modifications to their diet to stay healthy.”

Timmerman said that although her research is on middle-aged women, she is looking to adapt her program to fit the lifestyle of students.

“A lot of the time it is the college-age population’s first time on their own and managing their own food intake,” Timmerman said. “It is very easy to shift the focus of college students away from unhealthy foods and teach them to manage calories by knowing what to choose.”

Lori Jones, registered dietician for University Health Services, said she thinks that the program is a good idea because she also teaches people to be conscious of what they eat.

“People do not pay attention when they eat, which often leads to overeating,” Jones said.

Kelsey Coto, public health senior and spokeswoman for the food studies project and founder of the student nutritional awareness campaign, said she thinks the Mindful Restaurant Eating program could apply to college students because they have to deal with the stress of school while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

“The fact that they cannot cook at home, for the most part, so they have to deal with restaurants and dining halls is a problem,” Coto said. “So students are the victim of circumstances and have to leave their nutrition up to a third party.”

Nutrition and pre-pharmacy freshman Shannon Wolf said the program is important because it leads to a better diet and helps with health in the future.

“These tips are important to help maintain your weight while in a stressful situation like school,” Wolf said.

Printed on Thursday, March 8, 2012 as: Professor cooks up healthy restaurant eating