Using an app to track food consumption and weight is linked to significant weight loss, new research finds.
People in the study lost weight without following any particular diet or doing more exercise (adding these elements doubles weight loss).
They merely tracked what they ate and their weight using a simple, free app called ‘MyFitnessPal’, although other similar apps would probably work as well.
One useful feature of the app is that it reminds users to log their meals every day.
People in the study also set themselves calorie targets: for example, losing 5 percent of their body weight.
Professor Gary Bennett, study co-author, said:
“Free and low-cost weight loss apps have changed the ways that Americans manage their weight.
However, we knew little about whether these tools worked very well on their own.
We’ve shown that commercial smartphone apps can be a helpful way to get started with weight loss.”
The study, which lasted three months, included 105 overweight people split into three groups.
None were put on a specific diet, but they tracked their food consumption and weight to differing degrees.
The results showed that those who were most diligent at tracking their weight and what they ate lost the most weight (7 pounds, on average).
Critically, tracking eating and weight was also linked to keeping the weight off.
Ms Michele Lanpher Patel, the study’s first author, said:
“We wanted to study a lower-intensity treatment for weight loss whereby people could join from the comfort of their home.
Not everyone wants or has time for a high-intensity weight-loss treatment.”
Professor Bennett said:
“We have very strong evidence that consistent tracking — particularly of diet, but also one’s weight — is an essential element of successful weight loss.
Consumers should look for apps that make it easy for them to track on a consistent basis.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth (Patel et al., 2019).