While bariatric surgery is widely regarded as the most promising intervention for the country’s obesity epidemic, it doesn’t work on its own. Rather, weight loss clients assume responsibility for making the most of bariatric surgery through lifestyle changes. But this doesn’t mean they’re on their own. Rather, they have a number of tracking tools at their fingertips aimed at supporting adherence.
Read on to learn more about why tracking matters so much, along with a roundup of four tracking tools that can help post-op patients reach their weight loss goals.
Tracking calories and exercise is a significant commitment. However, the research says it’s worth it. In fact, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research, logging the food we eat can double weight loss.
Said lead author Jack Hollis, PhD: “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost. Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories.”
More good news: Food tracking gets easier over time. In fact, research indicates that it takes approximately 21 days to form a habit. While this may be something of a simplification, the principle remains the same: If your weight loss clients commit to food tracking and stick with it, it will eventually become something they do without even having to think about it.
Says Weight Management Initiative member Keith Bachman, MD: “Every day I hear patients say they can’t lose weight. This study shows that most people can lose weight if they have the right tools and support. And food journaling in conjunction with a weight management program or class is the ideal combination of tools and support.”
In addition to the value offered by dietitian’s consultations and weight loss support groups, food journaling can make all the difference. But different people have different preferences when it comes to choosing a tracking method that fulfills their unique needs. To determine the approach that works best for them, encourage your clients to consider a variety of tracking tools, including the following:
It may not be the most high-tech of options, but many people do find that taking the time to write down their daily food intake and calories raises both awareness and engagement.
And it doesn’t have to be a formal act, either.
Continues Bachman: “Just the act of scribbling down what you eat on a Post-It note” can be enough. “It’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that helps us become aware of our habits, and hopefully change our behavior,” he reveals.
The digitalization of society has given weight loss patients more options than ever before when it comes to food tracking tools. Again, different apps have different pros and cons. Experimenting with several can help users develop a better sense of each product's unique functionality.
As with bariatric surgery, however, having a weight loss app on your phone is far from sufficient when it comes to promoting adherence. Rather, patients must be “truly ready to self-monitor calories” in order to see results, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The conclusion: “Readiness and adherence to self-monitoring must be addressed in order for apps such as MyFitnessPal to impact obesity and its costly, long-term consequences in primary care settings.”
Speaking of MyFitnessPal, this is just one of many apps now available. For more extensive information on tracking apps, check out Kaiser Permanente’s guide to 10 nutrition and diet apps for 2018.
Accurate food tracking isn’t just about remembering to write everything down; it’s also about adequately measuring serving sizes. A food scale can help ensure that portion sizes are accurate thereby preventing unexpected weight gain. This is especially useful, given research indicating that people tend to underestimate the calories they’re consuming throughout the day.
While fitness and activity monitors aren’t food trackers, they do provide an invaluable service for bariatric patients looking to meet their daily exercise goals. Not only that, but the mere act of wearing a fitness tracker may actually encourage people to move their bodies more due to the combination of three powerful factors: accountability, accuracy and motivation, according to Linda Arslanian, director of rehabilitation services at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
One last thing to keep in mind: Choosing the right tracking method matters, according to research published in the journal Eating Behaviors. Why? Because patients who track their food and exercise intake via their preferred methods have better adherence — and more favorable outcomes — than those who use non-preferred methods.
Dietitians can help weight loss clients make the best choices not only by reiterating the importance of tracking, but also by making sure they're aware of all of their options for tracking tools.