If you’ve sworn off carbs as part of a resolution to lose weight — and you’re miserable because of it — it may be time to rethink your approach.
New data published by athletic brand Under Armour and weight loss app MyFitnessPal looked at what foods people are eating to drop pounds and — rejoice! — carbs made the cut.
The analysis included the self-reported diets of more than 4 million Americans actively using MyFitnessPal, a program that allows users to track their meals (down to the brand of each food), exercise and weight. The data indicated what successful users were eating, and what they were avoiding.
Turns out, users who hit their weight loss goals ate more cauliflower, raw fruits, cereal, grains, yogurt, almonds and healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil. What’s more, these “successful users” didn’t avoid a single food completely and didn’t worry too much about limiting their intake of carbohydrates, fats or calories.
This less-restrictive approach is probably what made them more successful in losing weight than other users, according to Idalis Velazquez, a certified nutritionist and personal trainer.
“One thing I noticed [in the study] was that ‘successful dieters’ do not eliminate certain food groups like grains and are not afraid to include carbs,” she told The Huffington Post. “When we eliminate or restrict certain food groups, our diet becomes less sustainable and therefore less successful.”
However, even though successful users didn’t deprive themselves, the study found they did eat less pasta, potatoes, meat and eggs than the average user overall — the latter of which surprised Velazquez.
“In my experience, successful dieters consume a diet higher in quality proteins and they do not rely on yogurt alone,” Velazquez said, noting that protein boosts metabolism, keeps you feeling full for longer and helps the body retain muscle.
Overall, MyFitnessPal’s most successful users weren’t on some magical food regimen to lose weight — they were just eating smart. They were engaging in a diet that looks a lot like the one suggested by the United States Department of Agriculture: They packed in fruits and vegetables, cut down on meat, ate more fiber and got their fix of healthy fats.
While the study didn’t include data from the users’ exercise logs — which, according to Velazquez, leaves an incomplete picture of their true weight loss process — it does give a helpful look into what successful dieters are consuming. It’s important insight, considering how vital food selection is to a healthy weight. Experts theorize nutrition plays the biggest role when it comes to dropping pounds.
Looking to adopt a new weight loss approach? Below, see MyFitnessPal’s full list of the 12 surprising food habits of its most successful users.