For most of us, losing weight isn’t easy. We try to cut calories, eat more nutritiously, and work out, but life can get in the way. A couple of dinners out at restaurants, a few drinks at a party, or a coworker bringing in freshly baked cookies can blow all your efforts for the week. But there may be a way to keep yourself motivated and on track so you’re not as likely to derail your efforts. And according to new research, you might be able to achieve your weight loss goals using this method for just 15 minutes a day.
The study, which took place at the University of Vermont in Burlington, found that monitoring your diet using an online program can be done in a few minutes a day and helps make weight loss efforts more effective. These results are based on an investigation that included 142 men and women involved in an online, behavioral weight loss program. All the subjects were overweight or obese at the start of the study.
Participation in the weight loss program was 24 weeks long and the volunteers took part in online meeting sessions each week. During these sessions, they were provided with strategies to employ like self-monitoring their diets and setting goals, as well as reminded of the importance of regular exercise and consuming fewer calories. In addition, the subjects logged on to a website every day to report all the food they consumed, and the site was designed to track the frequency of their logins and the amount of time spent recording their diet.
The investigation was set up to determine how much time it takes a person to log their food intake each day. During the first month of the study period, the participants spent an average of 23.2 minutes per day on the food-monitoring program. But as time went on, they became more efficient in using the program and, by the end of the six months, the volunteers only spent an average of 14.6 minutes per day on inputting the foods they had eaten.
Aside from the fact that the researchers established that the time commitment involved in using an online food monitoring system is minimal, they also noted significant benefits associated with its use. It also should be noted that the quantity of time spent on the site tracking food intake had no bearing on the amount of weight lost. However, there was a correlation between logging on to the site frequently and consistently and greater weight loss.
The subjects who lost 10 percent of their body weight or more over the course of the study period visited the site an average of 2.7 times each day. In contrast, those who lost less than 10 percent of their body weight only logged in 1.7 times each day. What’s more, the volunteers who lost a minimum of 10 percent of their body weight tracked their food consumption more than 20 days each month on average, while those who lost less only tracked their consumption for approximately 11 days each month.
Using the site more often likely means those participants were more vigilant about tracking every single food and drink they consumed. Food monitoring encourages people to make an honest list of every single thing eaten, with the premise being that it helps them stick to dietary improvements and to see how the changes they are making are resulting in losing pounds. But people who are not logging in as frequently are probably failing to enter at least some of their food intake, whether on purpose because they don’t want to admit they overate or chose something unhealthy or by accident because they hadn’t made it a priority to log in for many hours.
Ultimately, if you know you need to shed some excess weight, this research serves as a good reminder that there are tools you can use to increase your odds of success. Find an online food monitoring program or download an app such as MyFitnessPal (free) to your phone. Note: having the app on your phone is especially good if you tend to eat out a lot so you don’t have to wait hours to record it. But keep in mind that these kinds of tools can only help you keep track of your daily calories; it’s still up to you to make nutritious, healthy choices.