Consistency and Frequency In Tracking What You Eat May Help You Lose Weight

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Consistency and frequency of tracking your food consumption for as little as 15 minutes per day may help you lose weight, according to a new study conducted by Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and colleagues at the University of Vermont and the University of South Carolina.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Internet Obesity Treatment Enhanced with Motivational Interviewing (iReach) study, provided insight into how many times per day and how many days per month were important for achieving clinically significant weight loss. The study also quantified how long logging intake takes someone when first starting a diet and how that changes over time through practice and repetition. Participants logged their caloric intake using the study’s web-based system.

Rebecca Krukowski, PhD

“The typical recommendation from weight management programs is to record foods as soon as they are consumed, or to ‘write it when you bite it,’” said Dr. Krukowski. “This strategy is intended to give you a running total throughout the day, like your ATM or checkbook balance, so that you know whether you have the calories to “spend” on a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate after dinner.”

According to Dr. Krukowski, this new research indicates that those who logged on to the study’s web-based platform to keep track of their diets about three times per day were more likely to achieve a 5 percent or even 10 percent weight loss over six months, the typical markers for clinically significant weight loss.

“Although we aren’t able to know whether those three times were during or soon after eating as recommended, these successful participants certainly did not wrack their brains at the end of the day to try to remember what they ate and enter it all at one time,” Dr. Krukowski said. “In addition, participants who logged on about 20 days per month were more likely to achieve clinically significant weight loss, greater than or equal to 5 percent weight loss, over those who logged less frequently.”

Participants took an average of 23 minutes per day during their first month to log their foods, which decreased to just 15 minutes each day during the fourth, fifth, and sixth month. Study participants were also enrolled in an online behavioral weight management program, encouraged to adhere to a reduced-calorie, low-fat diet, and complete 200 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly.

Participants of the study were recruited in 2012, logging their caloric intake using the study’s web-based system, a time when commercial diet logging apps and websites were just gaining popularity. “Current commercial diet apps have also introduced innovations that may speed up logging, such as the bar code scanners and the ability to import recipes with just the website link,” Krukowski said. “So participants logging today may be able to log their foods completely in less time than these estimates.”