Tracking food intake with an app gives a significant boost to weight loss, a new study finds.
People in the study simply tracked what they ate with a straightforward, free app called ‘MyFitnessPal’.
They lost weight without doing any more exercise or following a special diet.
The app’s critical feature is that it reminds people to record their meals each day — other apps with the same feature would likely work as well.
People trying to lose weight often lose interest in tracking their weight over time.
Using an app with a reminder helps support the habit.
For the study, 105 overweight people tracked how much they ate to different degrees.
Each person set their own particular target, such as losing 5 percent of their body weight.
The results showed that people who tracked their food intake and weight more carefully lost more weight.
The average weight loss over the three months of the study was 7 pounds (about 3 kg).
In addition to tracking intake, by increasing levels of exercise and restricting calories, it may be possible to double weight loss.
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 Gary Bennett, study co-author, 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).