Here’s another piece I’ve already written! This is my Nutrition 101 article that appeared in the December-January issue of Oasis magazine discussing the strategy of self-monitoring to facilitate weight loss.
The New Year is right around the corner, which for many means resolutions. Among the more popular promises people make to themselves this time of year are quitting smoking, reducing stress, spending more time with their family and of course exercising more or losing weight.
If weight loss is your goal this upcoming year, I’d suggest skipping the fad diets and trying a strategy that’s been shown to be incredibly effective for people looking to shed pounds and keep them off: Self-Monitoring.
What is Self-Monitoring?
Self-monitoring refers to the practice of observing and recording your thoughts and actions, and subsequently using this information to provide on feedback on your behaviors. When we talk about using self-monitoring as a strategy for weight loss, this usually means food and/or activity logs, as well as weekly weighing.
Why does it work?
To put it simply, self-monitoring increases awareness. It is a lot more difficult to justify eating two McDonald’s cheeseburgers plus fries and a Coke, when you see it staring right back at you in your food log.
Food & Activity Logs
The most common method of self-monitoring for weight loss is maintaining a food and/or activity log. Of course you can do this the old-fashioned way with a pen and paper, but today there’s so many resources available (apps, books, online nutrient databases, etc.) it’s easier than ever to keep track of your diet and exercise using your computer, phone or tablet. Whatever method you choose to track your diet make sure to at least record the type of food, amount and calorie information. Most people tend to underestimate their portions, so it’s not a bad idea to invest in a food scale and set of measuring cups. If you’re tracking your activity, ideally you should record the exercise type, intensity and duration.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive online nutrient database, the one from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is my preferred option. Fitday and MyFitnessPal are a couple of the more popular free websites that have accompanying apps to track your diet and exercise.
As someone who often touts that health is not measured by a number on a scale, it may seem strange for me to be advocating that people who want to lose weight make sure they weigh themselves weekly and keep a record of it. Weekly weighing is not a strategy intended to pass judgement on your health (or self-worth), rather as a tool in which to inform. If your goal is to lose weight, it can be empowering being able to see the direct consequences of your diet and exercise choices. Weekly weighing increases awareness and influences behaviour, which is ultimately what we’re going for here. For maximal accuracy pick up a good quality scale (or use the one at your gym) and make sure to always weigh yourself at the same time each day.
The Bottom Line
People who self-monitor are more likely to lose weight and keep it off compared to other dieters who don’t. Having to be so meticulous in recording your food, activity or weight may seem onerous at first (and it probably will be), BUT it does get easier. By the time you get good at it, it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes/day. Seems like a small price to pay if you’re able to keep the weight off for good this time, doesn’t it?