Monitoring one’s daily food consumption might be the easiest but most effective way to lose weight, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of South Carolina found that to lose 10 percent or more of their body weight, participants only had to use a food-monitoring app for about 15 minutes (or less!) every day.
In a study that appears in the Wiley Online Library and will be published in the next issue of Obesity, the researchers recruited nearly 150 participants for an online behavioral weight control intervention. For 24 weeks, the participants engaged in an online group session with a trained dietician.
The participants were also asked to log their daily food consumption, including calories and fat, in an app. The researchers monitored how frequent each participant used the app and compared it to how much weight they lost throughout the program.
At the beginning of the study, the participants were, on average, using the app to monitor their diet every day for 23.2 minutes. By the sixth month of the program, the most successful participants who lost the most body weight were spending just 14.6 minutes daily logged into the app.
The study, according to the researchers, is the first to quantify the amount of time that people take out of their every day to self-monitor their diet for the purpose of losing weight.
“People hate it; they think it’s onerous and awful, but the question we had was: How much time does dietary self-monitoring really take?” asked Jean Harvey from the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at the University of Vermont and the lead author of the study. “The answer is, not very much.”
The study, however, confirmed that the amount of time that a person spends using the app is not indicative of whether they would lose weight or not. Instead, the more important factor is consistency: how often during the day the participant logged in to monitor their diet.
“Those who self-monitored three or more time per day, and were consistent day after day, were the most successful,” added Harvey. “It seems to be the act of self-monitoring itself that makes the difference — not the time spent or the details included.”
The researchers hope that their study would encourage people to self-monitor their diets as a weight-loss strategy. Harvey noted that there are a variety of apps that monitor diet, making it easier for the public to track the food they consume and make necessary dietary changes for overall better health.