Research: What makes a difference in weight loss?

Research - Boggle LettersResearch - Boggle Letters

Self-monitoring can make a difference in weight loss success

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Weight-loss should focus on building behaviors that will not only result in weight loss but also lead to life-long change that will prevent weight regain.  In the past, changes such as calorie counting, carb counting, physical activity, and daily self-weighing have been suggested.   These self-monitoring techniques should result in weight loss and prevent regain, but the research on the effectiveness of the self-monitoring techniques is very limited.

The aim is to promote weight loss through gradual lifestyle change  through0 self-monitoring.  Self-monitoring is a technique in which we record our dietary intake and physical activity in order to help increase awareness of their current behaviors.  Theoretically, self-monitoring should work, but there is limited data to back up this theory.  Also, changing dietary and exercise habits require some self-control which may confound research because self-control varies from person to person.  

New research has looked to address this question by using technology to self-monitor body weight, dietary intake, and physical activity[1].   Self-monitoring is a common practice used by consumers to increase awareness of their current behaviors to determine better how to lose weight.  The study looked to analyze the contribution of self-monitoring to weight loss in participants in a 6-month commercial weight-loss intervention and to specifically identify the significant contributors to weight loss that are associated with behavior and outcomes.   The study was a retrospective analysis performed using 2113 participants enrolled from 2011 to 2015 in a Retrofit weight-loss program. Self-monitoring behaviors included were weight measurements, dietary intake, and physical activity.  Participants lost a mean –5.6% of their baseline weight with 51% of participants losing at least 5% of their baseline weight.  The researchers identified weighing in at least three times per week, having a minimum of 60 highly active minutes per week, food logging at least three days per week, and having 64% or more weeks with at least five food logs were associated with clinically significant weight loss for both male and female participants.

The bottom line: The self-monitoring behaviors of self-weigh-in, daily steps, high-intensity activity, and persistent food logging were significant predictors of weight loss during a 6-month intervention.  I recommend self-monitoring as a method to keep you honest in your weight loss endeavors.  


S. L. Painter et al., “What Matters in Weight Loss? An In-Depth Analysis of Self-Monitoring,” J Med Internet Res, vol. 19, no. 5, p. e160, May 2017 [Online]. Available: 10.2196/jmir.7457″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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