Confused about which diet works best? Feeling overwhelmed by options, gym offers, and fitness programs to try?
Researchers have found one simple daily habit that can help you lose weight and keep it off, and it has nothing to do with the latest diet or workout trend.
Daily Tracking is the Key to Weight Loss
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, researchers recommend tracking your food intake and body weight regularly.
Download a Food Tracking App
Diet success may have less to do with what you eat and more with how you track your foods. Researchers at Duke University found that people who tracked their daily food consumption using a free smartphone app lost a significant amount of weight, regardless of their diet.
“We have very strong evidence that consistent tracking — particularly of diet, but also one’s weight — is an essential element of successful weight loss,” says Gary Bennett, a psychology professor at Duke University who co-authored the study.
“Consumers should look for apps that make it easy for them to track on a consistent basis.”
Make Friends with Your Scale
Before you join a gym, start a diet, or hire a personal trainer, make sure you have a scale at home. Research has shown that dieters who weigh-in daily are more successful at losing weight and staying on track than those who do it rarely (or not at all).
How can a regular weigh-in help with weight loss success?
Monitoring your behavior or body weight may increase your awareness of how changing behaviors can affect weight loss, according to study authors from the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
Why Does Daily Tracking Work?
It’s easy to overlook how many calories are in a second helping of dinner, or a handful of snacks mindlessly eaten at your desk. If you’re trying to cut calories to lose fat, you could easily be overconsuming calories without even realizing it.
Tracking your food intake and your bodyweight not only helps you see exactly how much you’re eating but also makes it easier to adhere to your daily calorie goal.
What’s more, pairing food tracking with a daily weigh-in can be helpful for positive reinforcement. Seeing the scale drop in tandem with healthy meal and snack choices can be very rewarding and encourage you to keep going. And understanding how indulgent choices can set your progress back can provide another type of motivation.
But, I Don’t Have Time for Tracking…
Worried about spending all day logging food in a journal or smartphone app?
If you’ve got 15 minutes in a day, you’ve got time to track.
A study published in the journal Obesity found the most successful participants—those who lost 10% of their body weight or more—spent an average of 23 minutes a day self-monitoring during their first month.
By the 6-month mark, the average time had dropped to 14.6 minutes per day.
If you have 15 minutes a day to scroll through your Insta feed or catch up on your latest Netflix obsession, then you have time to track your food and step on the scale.
How to Start a Habit that Sticks
Starting any daily habit is easier than it sounds. And daily food tracking is no exception.
But you can get around the learning curve and set yourself up for success with a little trick known as habit stacking.
Habit stacking is simply the act of attaching a new behavior to an existing one.
For example, you already brush your teeth every morning. (We hope.) Why not associate the two behaviors together? Place your scale right in front of the sink to make it even easier. “While I brush my teeth, I step on the scale and check my weight every morning.”
And you can create a food tracking habit stack by tracking your food after you dish up your plate but before you eat. “Immediately before I eat a meal, I track it in my journal/ tracking app.”
Adopt this one daily habit, and you won’t have to worry about whether you should try the Keto diet or Adele’s Sirtfood diet. And you can stop stressing over Crossfit vs cardio and just choose an exercise you enjoy. Because research shows that self-monitoring your daily food intake and body weight is the secret to losing weight and keeping it off.