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Lose 10 percent of your weight? Using app to track what you eat can help, study says

Smart phone apps that monitor your food and calorie intake, such as iWatchr, above, can help you lose weight, a new study found.
Smart phone apps that monitor your food and calorie intake, such as iWatchr, above, can help you lose weight, a new study found. The Kansas City Star

Everything goes better when you pay attention.

When going down a steep flight of stairs, driving in Miami traffic or even cooking a complex recipe, attention to detail ensures a better outcome.

The same goes for weight loss. Being mindful and aware of what you are eating leads to both healthier choices and a drop in pounds.

Research published in the March issue of Obesity described both the outcome and time involved in monitoring your food intake. The research group consisted of 142 subjects.

During the 24-week online study, subjects recorded their daily food intake using a web-based dietary analysis program. Researchers collected data on the study participant’s weight loss, the time he or she spent using the food-recording program and how frequently they used the program.

Participants were also encouraged to adhere to a reduced calorie intake and complete 200 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous exercise.

Sheah Rarback.jpg
Sheah Rarback

Subjects who lost 10 percent of their body weight spent an average of 23.2 minutes per day self-monitoring in the first month of the study. By the sixth month of the study, the time was down to 14.6 minutes a day.

The authors suggest the time drop was due to increased skill with recording intake. What I found most interesting was that people who consistently recorded their intake three or more times a day were the most successful.

It is not the total self-monitoring time that made the difference but the number of times someone logged in. These results support previous research on the benefit of self-monitoring.

Lose It and My Fitness Pal are two free apps that make it very easy to monitor food intake. I have had patients tell me that they chose the nutritious snack over the candy bar when they realized they would have to write it down and look at it in their summary.

The takeaway from this study: Spending 14 minutes a day tracking your food intake could lead to losing 10 percent of your weight.

Not a bad tradeoff.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.
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