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Turns out there's more to being 'naturally thin' than just blessed genes

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

You don't have to be an obsessive dieter to lose weight

Being "mindlessly thin" sounds like either a gimmick for selling diet pills or a description of your genetically blessed-but-oblivious college roommate. (Didn't we all have a roommate who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain an ounce? I'm not still bitter. Okay, maybe a little bit.) But now a new study says that being thin (if that's what you're doing for) without obsessing over it is a possibility for all of us — it's just about creating the right habits.

Many of us see maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood, without fluctuating, as about as easy as climbing Mount Everest or as simple as calculus. But, according to a new study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, a healthy weight doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, they say that we don't really have to think about it at all. In a survey of nearly 1,000 "mindlessly slim" adults, the researchers asked people who don't diet and didn't lose or gain weight about their food intake, exercise and lifestyle. They then compared them to a similar group of people who chronically dieted and thought about their weight all the time to see what the differences were.

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Mindlessly slim individuals — who were predominately female, over 35 and an average of 5'6" and 135 pounds — were more likely to use strategies that differ from traditional recommendations for weight loss or maintenance, the researchers said. These strategies included eating high-quality foods, cooking at home and listening to inner cues in order to stay slim.

In addition, they formed healthy habits and stuck to them: 96 percent of the mindlessly slim subjects ate breakfast every day, usually eating dairy, fruit, whole grains and eggs, 35 percent said they had a salad for lunch every day, 63 percent ate veggies at every dinner and 90 percent kept an eye on their weight by stepping on the scale at least once a week. But they didn't obsess over the number or feel bad about it, nor did they indicate feeling as guilty as the dieting group did about overeating. Instead the researchers said they were more likely to have an "enjoyment-based, internally informed" approach to food and eating.

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"These results are encouraging because they imply that instead of putting restrictions on one's diet and avoiding favorite foods, excessive weight or weight gain might be prevented by learning to listen to inner cues and putting emphasis on quality instead of quantity of the food," says lead researcher Anna-Leena Vuorinen.

Sounds good to me! Of course, the trick now is how to go from dieting and obsessing over my weight for my entire life to one of these "mindless" people. Perhaps this is one case where "fake it 'til you make it" makes sense? Either way, it's worth a try because, let's face it, the alternative stinks.

You don't have to be an obsessive dieter to lose weight
Image: Cornell Food and Brand Lab

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