The first step to losing weight and gaining better health is using self-monitoring techniques to track your calories. Armed with this information, you can reinforce what’s working well. Some evidence suggests that recording food and beverage intake leads to healthy, sustainable weight loss. Weighing yourself daily might help too.
What’s the secret to weight-loss success? Choose a self-monitoring technique that works for you: Try to do these actions frequently—at least 3 times per week—and turn them into healthy habits.
Keep a food diary
This form of “paper” record keeping has been around the longest. It’s been associated with improved weight loss results too. And it’s the method of choice for many. While convenient, it sometimes can take longer to look up food items. Some often wait to write down what they’re eating, and this can affect your diary’s accuracy.
Track calories online
You can choose to receive feedback from a counselor or join online groups or bulletin boards for ideas and motivation. Software programs offer other features such as saving frequently eaten foods or meals for faster entry. Studies show that weight loss using a web-based program is comparable to writing everything down on paper.
Use a weight-loss app
Mobile apps and programs are becoming simpler and more intuitive to help monitor your healthy eating. Some programs are interactive as well. They also provide nutrition information for over 45,000 food items, including brand name and restaurant foods. Entering foods and calculating their calories takes only a fraction of the time when compared to a “paper” food diary. Many new apps and programs are being evaluated, and the market is growing annually. There are many food-tracker apps available. Find the one that works best for you.
Wear a fitness tracker
Wearable wristbands can help monitor and record your food intake, activity, sleep, and more. The technology is constantly changing, and several items are currently in the developmental and research stages. These include necklaces with sensors that record information when you swallow, a wearable wristband that counts bites, an earpiece that measures bites, and an electronic “fork” that tracks your eating habits.
Weigh yourself daily
Those who weigh themselves daily have been shown to be more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Try to weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking and after you’ve used the bathroom. It’s ideal to use the same scale to more accurately track your weight loss. If you’re increasing muscle mass through strength training, your body weight might not change because muscle mass replaces fat. While you might be getting fitter, the scale won’t reflect this. Instead, try measuring your waist circumference to track your progress. Or notice how your clothes fit.
Your motivation might start to decline in 3–5 weeks. Knowing this might enable you to be more diligent about forming healthy nutrition habits. Find self-monitoring methods that work for you, and enlist a friend or family member who can provide encouragement and hold you accountable. Choose an appropriate diet and exercise plan to follow too.
Check with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian to make sure the goals you’ve set for yourself are realistic, healthy, and sustainable. And explore more of HPRC’s Nutritional Fitness section to learn more about healthy eating, so you can perform well. Doing so can help you stay the course!