Is the most effective weight loss strategy really so difficult? New study shows that food self-monitoring takes less than 15 minutes a day – ScienceDaily


Research shows that if you want to lose weight, the best predictor of success is monitoring and recording your calorie and fat intake throughout the day – "write it down when you bite it".

However, food self-monitoring is generally considered so unpleasant and tedious that many who lose weight can not give themselves the will to do so.

New research to appear in the March issue of Obesity suggests that the reality of food self-monitoring can be much less unpleasant than perception.

After six months of tracking their food intake, the top performers in an online behavioral weight loss program spent an average of 14.6 minutes per day on this activity. Program participants recorded calories and fat from all foods and beverages they consumed, as well as portion sizes and methods of preparation.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Vermont and the University of South Carolina, is the first to quantify how much time food self-monitoring actually takes for those who lose weight successfully.

"People hate it, they think it's painful and horrible, but the question we had was: how long does self-monitoring for food?" said Jean Harvey, president of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Vermont and lead author of the study. "The answer is, not much."

Harvey and his colleagues examined the dietary self-monitoring habits of 142 participants in an online behavioral weight control intervention. For 24 weeks, participants met weekly for an online group session led by a qualified dietician.

Participants also recorded their daily food consumption online, leaving a record of time spent on activity and the frequency with which they logged in – information extracted by the researchers for the new study.

Participants who lost 10% of their body weight – the best performing members of the cohort – spent an average of 23.2 minutes per day on self-monitoring in the first month of the program. In the sixth month, the time was 14.6 minutes.

Short but frequent

What was most predictive of the success of weight loss was not the time spent monitoring – those who took more time and included more details had no better results – but the frequency of connections, confirming the conclusions of previous studies.

"Those who self-monitored at least three times a day and who followed day after day were the best performers," said Harvey. "It seems to be the act of self-control itself that makes the difference – not the time spent or the details included."

Harvey attributes the decrease in the time needed for self-monitoring to the increasing efficiency of participants in recording data and the web program's ability to automatically complete words and phrases automatically after entering a few letters.

Harvey said that the most important contribution of the study could be to help future weight losers set behavioral goals.

"We know that people do better when they have the right expectations," Harvey said. "We were able to tell them that they should do 200 minutes of exercise a week, but when we asked them to write all their food, we could never say how long it would take." we can. "

With online dietary monitoring apps such as LoseIt, Calorie King and My Fitness Pal widely available, Harvey hopes the study results will encourage more people to adopt food self-monitoring as a weight loss strategy. .

"It's very effective and it's not as hard as people think," she said.

The stakes are high. The latest federal data show that nearly 40% of American adults were obese in 2015-2016, compared to 34% in 2007-2008. Obesity is linked to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is responsible for 18% of deaths among Americans aged 40 to 85, according to a 2013 study.

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