How keeping track keeps you on track

How keeping track keeps you on track

Self-monitoring can be helpful for both positive reinforcement of making healthy choices and for reining in tendencies to indulge more often than is beneficial for weight or nutrition goals. Seeing healthy meal and snack decisions manifest themselves in improvements to our health is rewarding,” Webster explained. “And being able to say, ‘oh, I forgot that I had some candy after lunch today — maybe I can go easy on dessert tonight,’ is a clear way that having a written food record can lead to making healthier choices overall.”

In other words, self-monitoring allows us to see the good choices we’re making, quickly correct course when we indulge, and make smarter choices in the future.

A growing trend
Finding ways to manage diet and nutrition is gaining popularity.

It’s estimated that about 45 million people in the United States go on a diet each year, while Americans invest about $33 billion annually in buying weight loss products, according to Boston Medical Center.

These efforts to find the best weight loss approaches stand out starkly against the ever-rising obesity numbers among American adults.

More than 1 in 3 adults were said to have obesity, while about 1 in every 13 has “extreme obesity,” according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) showed that obesity accounts for 18 percent of deaths among Americans between 40 and 85 years old.

It’s easier than you may think
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find countless apps and products that aim to give people useful tools to record and measure their weight loss goals.

The sheer number may seem overwhelming at first, but how you choose to keep track of what you eat isn’t as important as the act itself.

Also, there isn’t a need to spend a lot of money on a fancy program. Several quality self-monitoring apps are available for free.

For instance, Lose It! is a free app for Apple and Android devices that gives users an easy way to track what they are consuming.

Fooducate is another free Apple and Android app that gives you the chance to look up exactly what is in the foods you eat on a regular basis. The app provides ratings for common items — “Tostitos Multigrain Scoops! Tortilla Chips” have a “B minus” on the app. Compare that to a Coca Cola soda, which has a dismal “D” rating on the app.

Harvey added that her research underscores the effectiveness of self-monitoring as a behavior that is “strongly related to weight loss success.”

She said that finding any way to monitor your food intake “will be helpful for weight loss and maintenance.”

Webster suggests that you do what feels most comfortable and easily applicable to your daily schedule.

“If you’re a person that hand-writes to-do lists or writes in a journal often, maybe a written form of self-monitoring is your style. You can easily jot things down in a plain-old notebook, and there are many different food journals or blank templates available in bookstores or online,” she said. “If you frequently use your phone, tablet, or computer for work or leisure, maybe having an app-based or online food tracking system will be most efficient.

“It’s important to find a system that you like and that you feel comfortable with. Otherwise, the desire to fall off the wagon will be that much stronger,” she added. “We often hear that the best form of exercise is ‘the one that you’ll actually do.’ Same goes for self-monitoring options.”

The bottom line
A new study in the journal Obesity suggests that self-monitoring what foods you consume is the most effective way to lose weight.

Participants in the 6-month study who lost the most weight, spent just under 15 minutes a day recording what they ate and drank.

While it might seem daunting, the researchers urge that finding a way to include self-monitoring in your day-to-day routine will help you hit your weight loss goals.



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