Electronic Devices with Reminders Make Sticking to Diets Easier

Release Date: June 5, 2012 | By Glenda Fauntleroy, Contributing Writer
Research Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

KEY POINTS

  • A recent study shows that maintaining a daily diary, whether it’s electronic or on paper, to monitor one’s calorie intake and exercise can lead to successful weight loss.
  • Electronic diary software that provided reminders led to slightly more weight loss and more adherence to self-monitoring than recording on paper or using a device without reminders.
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There’s some good news for those trying to lose weight with the help of new apps on their mobile devices. They may actually work, says a new research study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Our study provides evidence that ongoing contact through hand-held devices can be beneficial to individuals who are trying to lose weight,” said study author Mindi Styn, Ph.D., a research assistant professor of nursing and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Past research has shown that self-monitoring one’s daily calorie intake and exercise may be the best way to make the necessary behavior changes to follow a weight loss regimen. The old method of writing it down in a paper diary can be tedious, however, so the new study looked at whether the technological advances of electronic devices have made it easier to stick with self-monitoring.

The researchers recruited 210 overweight or obese adults with body mass indexes between 27 and 43 who were randomly assigned to three different groups: self-monitoring with an electronic diary, self-monitoring with a device that provided feedback via a daily message, or self-monitoring with a paper diary. All participants had group counseling sessions on weight loss and set daily calorie intake and physical activity goals.

After 24 months, people who stuck to their diaries, be they electronic or paper, more than 60 percent of the time, lost more weight than those who self-monitored less than 30 percent of the time. But those using the device with feedback were more likely to stick to the daily self-monitoring and had the greatest weight loss, with an average of 2.3 percent.

Lawrence Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said he encourages patients trying to lose weight to take advantage of tools that facilitate self-monitoring since it’s been shown to increase the likelihood of success.

“Applications that remind people of what they are trying to do and how to do it are potentially very helpful,” he added.

Though the researchers had anticipated a greater weight loss overall and greater differences between groups, they found the average weight loss among the three groups was about the same. Styn suggested that the self-monitoring software on the device they used was not as user-friendly as current apps on the market, which may have discouraged some participants.

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For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at hbns-editor@cfah.org or (202) 387-2829.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at (858) 534-9340 or eAJPM@ucsd.edu.

Burke LE, Styn MA, et al. Using mHealth technology to enhance self-monitoring for weight loss. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, June 2012.

Tags for this article:
Diet and Nutrition   Health Information Technology   Lifestyle and Prevention  



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Anon says
June 8, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Could you give any of the specific names of the applications that were used? That would be very helpful!

Cindy Catlin ARNP-C says
June 8, 2012 at 2:52 PM

There are two real favorites amongst the dieters I work with, loseit.com wins first place because if you have an iphone and the loseit.com app, you can actually scan the barcode of the foods you eat (including Ideal Protein, Atkins, medifast and other weight management foods & protocols), and the nutrition facts are assimiliated into your daily totals precisely according to the servings you enter into you account database. You will get a daily total of nutrition facts including calories, fats, protein and carbohydrates, and you can track your exercise too! You know exactly where you stand at the end of the day, and at the end of the week. Second runner up is very similar, and has some additional benefits (you can write your own recipes and have them analyzed for nutrition) ... is an app that is associated with the website myfitnesspal.com - the lostit.com app won on the point of the barcode scan but both of these are excellent ways to track your meals, exercise and other specific parameters that contribute to healthy weight and healthy weight loss! Hope that helps :)

Anon says
June 8, 2012 at 3:31 PM

Thank you, Cindy! That does help. We are in the midst of launching various wellness activities and topics at my company and weight loss is definitely something that we are interested in getting into more detail. Everyone seems to have smartphones these days and any reason for them to use their phones seems to work better than other modes of communication we have tried.

Cindy Catlin ARNP-C says
June 8, 2012 at 3:54 PM

There are two real favorites amongst the dieters I work with, loseit.com wins first place because if you have an iphone and the loseit.com app, you can actually scan the barcode of the foods you eat (including Ideal Protein, Atkins, medifast and other weight management foods & protocols), and the nutrition facts are assimiliated into your daily totals precisely according to the servings you enter into you account database. You will get a daily total of nutrition facts including calories, fats, protein and carbohydrates, and you can track your exercise too! You know exactly where you stand at the end of the day, and at the end of the week. Second runner up is very similar, and has some additional benefits (you can write your own recipes and have them analyzed for nutrition) ... is an app that is associated with the website myfitnesspal.com - the lostit.com app won on the point of the barcode scan but both of these are excellent ways to track your meals, exercise and other specific parameters that contribute to healthy weight and healthy weight loss! Hope that helps :)



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