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February 25, 2019

The role your phone can play in weight loss

Tracking dietary intake can help people lose weight, and it only takes 15 minutes per day to see results, new research finds

Wellness Weight Loss
dietary tracking weight loss pexels Helena Lopes/Pexels

Even though keeping track of everything you eat and drink in a day is known to help people lose weight, as studies suggest, some are still hesitant to commit to the habit.

Reasons for not tracking food and water consumption? Concern about the time and amount of work it requires to unwillingness to download yet another app to their phone. That said, a new study suggests that monitoring your diet may not be as much work as you think.

The study out of the University of Vermont found that, after six months of diet tracking as part of a weight loss program, participants who lost weight spent just under 15 minutes a day, on average, recording their dietary intake, the study's press release explains.


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The study, published Monday in the journal Obesity, is the first to put a number on exactly how much time such dietary self-monitoring actually takes for people who successfully lose weight, the researchers said.

Researchers found that the most successful of the 142 participants who tracked their food intake during the weight-loss program spent an average 14.6 minutes per day doing so, the release states. Participants kept track of their daily calories and fat intake, in addition to their portion sizes and cooking methods, under the researchers instruction.

Live Science reports:

Contrary to what you would assume, the participants who lost the most weight spent didn't spend any more time tracking their diet. However, the most successful participants did have more frequent and consistent logins on the monitoring site. For example, those who lost at least 10 percent of their body weight after six months logged in 2.7 times per day, on average, compared with 1.7 times per day, on average, for those who lost less than 10 percent of their body weight.

"It seems to be the act of self-monitoring itself that makes the difference — not the time spent or the details included," study lead author Jean Harvey said in the release.

Because all of the food tracking was done online, the researchers note that their findings only apply to electronic self-monitoring and not necessarily the pencil-and-paper method, according to Live Science. Additionally, all participants were involved in a clinical trial weight loss program, so the results may not apply to those who aren't in as strict of a program.

"We know people do better when they have the right expectations," Harvey said. "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."

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