The study, which is the first to look at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring and diet-related behaviours and meal patterns on weight change among overweight and obese postmenopausal women, found that women who kept food journals consistently lost about 6 pounds more than those who did not.
The research, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also found that women who reported skipping meals lost almost eight pounds lesser than those who did not.
Similarly, those who ate out in restaurants at least once a week lost on average five fewer pounds than those who ate out less frequently. Eating out often at all meal times was linked with less weight loss, but the strongest association was observed with lunch, the researchers said.
"When it comes to weight loss, evidence from randomised, controlled trials comparing different diets finds restricting total calories is more important than diet composition such as low-fat versus low-carbohydrate," said lead study author Anne McTiernan of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the US.
"Therefore, the specific aim of our study was to identify behaviours that supported the global goal of calorie reduction," McTiernan said.
"For individuals who are trying to lose weight, the No. 1 piece of advice based on the study results would be to keep a food journal to help meet daily calorie goals. It's difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating," she added.
The findings were based on an analysis of data from 123 overweight-to-obese, sedentary women, aged 50 to 75 years, who were randomly assigned to two arms of a controlled, year-long dietary weight-loss intervention study.
The participants filled out a series of questionnaires to assess dietary intake, eating-related weight-loss strategies, self-monitoring behaviours and meal patterns. They were also asked to complete a 120-item food-frequency questionnaire to assess dietary change from the study's beginning to the end.
At the end of the study, participants in both arms lost an average of 10 per cent of their starting weight, which was the goal of the intervention.
"We think our findings are promising as it shows basic strategies such as maintaining food journals, eating out less often and eating at regular intervals are simple tools that postmenopausal women can use to help lose weight," McTiernan added.