Self-monitoring is one of the 4 secrets of successful weight maintenance—and there are plenty of simple ways to do it
Keep track to stay on track
We’ve talked a lot now about the four habits of people who lose weight and keep it off. Successful long-term weight losers tend to:
- Eat smart
- Stay active
- Eat breakfast
- Weigh themselves
We’d like to explore the fourth habit and the importance of monitoring.
We hope you've been using tracking tools to monitor your meals and physical activity. These tools have helped you keep track of your progress—but did you know that just tracking your weight and habits could’ve been helping you lose weight? We call this self-monitoring.
Studies have shown that weight losers who self-monitor more frequently achieve more success than those who do it less often. The better you keep track, the more likely you’ll be to stay on track. For example, self-monitoring methods require you to:
- Keep track of your weight. The more you weigh yourself, the more likely you are to lose weight and keep it off. You should weigh yourself at least once a week—once a day if you can.
- Keep track of what you eat. The more you use a food planner and tracker, the more weight you're likely to lose and keep off.
- Keep track of your physical activity. It helps if you keep track of how active you are. The better you keep track, the more active you’ll probably be, and you may lose more weight.
An app for that!
You can make it easier for yourself with technology. There are gadgets and cell phone apps that can help you keep track. Several studies have looked at the modern electronic methods and found newer techniques to be as good as or better than traditional tracking on paper. Here are some examples that could help you keep up with your own weight-loss or weight-maintenance plan:
- A pedometer can help you keep track of how much you walk.
- You can use the Internet or electronic devices to help you keep track of the foods you eat. This technology can give you easy access to nutrition info on the go. Also, some devices are equipped with customized feedback messages to help you keep on track. Some people find it easier to track their habits with an app or a device than with a paper journal.
- A scale with a memory function can help you track changes in your weight, as well as how often you weigh yourself.
Keep track of your weight
Weighing yourself has helped you measure your progress, but it can also be key to helping you keep the weight off. People who weigh themselves on a regular basis (every day or 3–4 times per week) are more likely to maintain their weight loss and have a lower body mass index than those who weigh themselves infrequently. People who let the habit slip were more likely to gain the weight back.
There are several ways in which weighing yourself may help you keep weight off. When researchers looked at the habits of people who didn’t regularly weigh themselves, they found that it wasn’t the only healthy habit these people let go. Those who let their self-weighing habit slide had less self-control and ate more fat in their diet.
Weighing yourself less often may be part of a larger pattern of less careful behavior. If so, then forgetting to self-weigh may not be the sole reason people gain weight. People who are starting to backslide may be afraid to weigh themselves; they might not want to find out what the scale will say. If this is a concern for you, there are two things you need to know:
- First, the same study found that people who weighed themselves more often lost more weight even if they slipped up in other areas of their plan.
- Second, another study found that people who weigh themselves more often view their bodies more positively. They may even feel better about their weight than those who weigh themselves less often. So in the long run, getting over your fear and stepping on the scale might not only help your waistline, it may also help you feel better about yourself.
So how does keeping track of your weight help you keep it off? You may catch weight changes early, which can help you fix a small weight gain right away so you won’t have to change a big one later. Just making the effort can keep your goals at the top of your mind; so keeping track may help you stay on track.
Keep track of what you eat
Tracking what you eat may get harder over time. You might find it hard to keep a good food planner and tracker or perhaps you’ve slipped up from time to time. That’s normal. There may have been days, or even weeks, when you just didn’t track the foods you ate. Studies have shown that 3 out of 4 people give up keeping their food diaries by the end of one year. As the months wear on, you may wonder if it’s still worth keeping your food diary. It is. The better you keep track, the better you’ll keep up with the plan. Studies assessing how well people keep track of the foods they eat found that those who are more consistent about their food diaries lose more weight.
So you might try a simplified diary or instead of recording what you eat every day, do it on 3 days out of 4. But as long as you keep a food diary, you will likely do better than if you stop.
Keep track of your physical activity
One good way to keep active is to keep good records. If you regularly track your physical activity, it will be easier to stay active, and you’ll probably lose more weight. Five studies looked at how keeping track of physical activity affects habits. These studies found that people who filled out their exercise diaries consistently were more active during the week. But that’s not all: they also found that the people who kept better records had less trouble staying active. So keeping good records may not just help you do more physical activity, it can also help you enjoy it more. And you may lose more weight: at least one study found that people who kept better track of their physical activity also lost more weight than those who did not.
Final thoughts on self-monitoring
All told, if you keep track of your habits and your weight, you may do better than if you don’t. There are a lot of tracking options out there so, do your research and find tools that work for you.