6 Reasons You Need to Log Your Food & Activity
A weight loss app that makes it easy to log your diet, exercise, weight and more (like Nutrisystem’s NuMi), could be the secret to your weight loss success. Research has shown that people who record what they eat, whether it’s in an old-fashioned food diary or on a smartphone or smartwatch app, are more likely to lose weight, to lose more weight, and to keep it off than people who don’t.
The scientific evidence is so overwhelming that many healthcare organizations are investing in it and health insurers encouraging it because it promotes wellness, a factor that could lower healthcare costs. (It’s a lot cheaper to stay healthy than to get well once you’re sick.)
Here are the benefits of keeping track of what you eat and how much you move:
1. You may lose more weight. That’s how it worked for the 1700 study participants in a 2008 study done at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research. Those who kept a diary of everything they ate lost twice as much as those who didn’t. And the more they wrote down, the more weight they lost. Why is the food diary—now available as a handy smart phone app—such a powerful weight loss tool? Keeping track of what and how much you eat and how much you exercise encourages you to be mindful of both and to make healthy choices—even if you’re the only one who sees your diary.
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2. The scale can become your best weight loss friend. Stepping on the scale every day used to be a big no-no—after all, weight naturally fluctuates—but researchers are now saying it may help some people pare the pounds. In one 2015 Cornell University study of 168 overweight or obese gym-goers, those who hopped on the scale daily lost more weight and kept it off than those who didn’t. They also kept track of their success on a graph, another way to keep tabs on your progress. Another study, published in the online journal PLOS ONE, found that people who skipped weigh-in for just a week gained weight. Like food diaries, the scale keeps you honest and gives you that motivation to keep the dial inching downward.
3. You’ll move more. Researchers at Boston University and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York gave a group of 54 people with prediabetes one little thing that made them increase their daily activity and potentially ward off full blown diabetes. It was a pedometer. The participants who wore their pedometer daily took more than 1400 extra steps than those who didn’t wear one—and they lost weight, too.
4. You’ll start to connect the dots. No more wondering why you gained weight this week. It’s all right there in your food diary or your activity chart. Compare your good weeks with your bad weeks and find the place where it all went wrong. A few too many spoonfuls of sugar in the coffee you needed because you didn’t get enough sleep? Only made it to the gym twice this week? That tells you you need to pay more attention to your sleep habits, watch your sugar consumption and be faithful to your exercise program. For example, if you have two teaspoons of sugar each of your three cups of coffee, you’ve added 100 calories to your diet—and hit the American Heart Association’s recommended limit for added sugars for women. (Men get a little more.) For weight loss, you need roughly 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous exercise (like walking a 15-minute mile) while you’re also dieting, according to US government guidelines. That’s more than three hours which you can break into easy-to-manage half-hour sessions six days a week.
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5. You can avoid those plateaus. The high of losing weight is frequently tempered by the low of hitting a plateau. That’s often where we lose hope and return to our old unhealthy ways. Diet, over. But if you know you’re stuck where you are—thanks to your daily tracking—you can adjust either your diet or your exercise to help get things moving again.
6. You can be more flexible. Studies have found that rigid diets—ones that don’t allow for the occasional piece of chocolate, for example, or require you to stick to a limited meal plan—simply don’t work. They don’t pass the real world test—you can’t live on them. Researchers at the University of Salzburg in Austria found that dieters were far more successful if they were able to be flexible when deciding what to eat. Keeping track of your daily food intake can help you say yes to the occasional splurge because your diary will tell you what you’ve already eaten and if there’s room for a scoop of frozen yogurt—and whether you can even have a squirt of chocolate sauce and a cherry on top.