Although middle-age spread is the bane of, well, most every middle-age person’s existence, some women do manage to shed pounds. Is there a secret to their slimming success? Maybe. And regardless of your diet and exercise regimen, if you follow a few simple habits you may also get on the path to fewer pounds.

The winning strategy comes from a weight-loss study conducted by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. It looked at 123 overweight-to-obese, inactive women, ages 50 to 75, who managed to lose, on average, 10 percent of their weight.

Researchers divided participants into two groups: One did nothing but diet, and the other employed diet and exercise. The women in both groups did three things: They recorded all the food they ate; they didn’t skip meals; and they just said no to eating out, especially at lunchtime. The result? Both groups lost weight, but the women who followed those three rigorous rules lost more pounds than those who didn’t.

Want to try it out? Researchers advise women to keep it simple when following the three-point strategy. Just use any piece of paper or smartphone to jot down what you eat; enjoy timely meals; and prepare, cook and eat at home to control ingredients, cooking methods and portion sizes.

But of the three weight-loss tactics, scientists stressed keeping a food journal as the most important.

“It is difficult to make changes to your diet when you are not paying close attention to what you are eating,” says Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, director of the Hutchinson Center’s Prevention Center.

So, tell me, what was the name of that dish you just served?