Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, in fact it is really, really difficult! The media is full of LOTS of information on how to do this. There are hundreds of computer and phone apps to help you keep track of what you eat and how much you exercise, and heart rate monitors that claim to tell you exactly how many calories you burn throughout your day. Many of these can be very helpful; but, it is easy to become overloaded with info and think that you “need” to use these apps, or buy the latest heart rate monitor if you are going to be successful with weight management. The scientific research does show that self monitoring of eating and activity as well as weight and body measurements is extremely helpful when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. What has really been researched:

  • Keeping a food record–it doesn’t matter whether this is with pen and paper or a computer device. Just writing down what you eat helps you to eat more mindfully.
    • Bottom line: Use a method that you can stick to! If a computer app fit’s your style, USE IT, if pen and paper is more your style USE THAT!
  • Another idea: keep a record of your appetite–what makes you eat?. Using a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being overly hungry (“famished”), 10 being overly full (“stuffed”). For each eating event (meal OR snack), note how hungry you are when you start eating, and how full you are when you finish. Make a couple notes on circumstances around eating (are you eating at the table, in the car, in front of the TV, while doing the crossword puzzle? Are you happy, sad, bored, stressed, angry?)
    • Without ever writing down what you eat, but noting appetite pre and post eating, and circumstances around eating, you will soon start to realize what helps you to eat when you are moderately hungry (~3) and stop when you are moderately full (~7); and what tends to result in overeating. A great book that discusses this is The Appetite Awareness Workbook by Linda Craighead (easily ordered off Amazon.com)
  • Weighing regularly–at least once a week, more often is OK. Regular weights help you to see how you are doing, and cues you to do something different, if weight is not going in the right direction. You don’t need a scale that measures BMI, or percentage body fat–these are gimmicks that are not truly necessary, or in the case of percentage body fat, accurate!
    • Want to know your BMI?
      Weight in lbs ÷ Height in inches ÷ Height in inches X 703  OR
      Weight in KG ÷ Height in meters ÷ Height in meters
      Don’t spend extra $ on a scale to get your BMI!!!
  • Measuring waist circumference– every couple of weeks; this has been shown to be as good or better than having body fat measured. If your waist circumference is decreasing, you are decreasing your body fat, regardless of what the scale shows!
    • The scientific research is pretty clear; fat around your middle increases risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and “metabolic syndrome”. Decreasing that with exercise and diet will improve your health whether or not you lose weight!

Bottom line: Keeping a food or an appetite record, monitoring your weight and waist circumference are all three very helpful when you are trying to lose weight and keep it off. High tech gadgets are fantastic tools for some folks, but a pain in the neck for others. Use a method that works for you—not the one that works for your co-worker, neighbor, friend…..