People who lost more weight on a weight loss programme self-monitored their dietary intake more often, US research has found.
Spending around just 20 minutes per day or less on weight loss apps was linked with greater weight loss in the study, with researchers highlighting that dietary self-monitoring does not have to be time-consuming.
“It’s highly effective, and it’s not as hard as people think,” said lead researcher Dr Jean Harvey, from the University of Vermont.
Dr Harvey and colleagues tracked 142 dieters who were using weight loss apps and programs over six months.
For the first time, researchers have looked into how long self-monitoring takes in a bid to establish how this correlated with weight loss. Previous studies have already revealed the power of recording food and drink as a predictor of weight loss.
The participants were supported by a dietitia, met online every week and logged onto an online portal to record their progress.
According to the results, the most successful dieters were able to lose 10% of their body weight. In month one, this group spent 23.2 minutes a day inputting their details, but by the sixth month their average self-monitoring time went down to 14.6 minutes.
Lead researcher Dr Jean Harvey, from the University of Vermont, said: “People hate it; they think it’s onerous and awful, but the question we had was: how much time does dietary self-monitoring really take? The answer is, not very much.
“We know people do better when they have the right expectations. We’ve been able to tell them that they should exercise 200 minutes per week. But when we asked them to write down all their foods, we could never say how long it would take. Now we can.”
The reduction in time could represent the participants’ improved efficiency of using the system through increased familiarity, as well as predictive text speeding up entries.
Additionally, the self-monitors who inputted their data three or more times over 24 hours achieved more consistent and greater overall results, proving that it was not about the amount of time spent monitoring, but the frequency.
Dr Harvey suggested: “It seems to be the act of self-monitoring itself that makes the difference – not the time spent or the details included.”
One consideration of the research is that those who were losing more weight may have been more motivated than those were not having as much success. The study cannot conclude with certainty that more frequent self-monitoring leads to greater weight loss.
The research will be published in the march edition of the journal Obesity.
Editor’s note: Visit our award-winning Low Carb Program for more information on weight loss, and how going low carb can have transformative health benefits for people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

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