We’ve been told time and time again that monitoring food intake can be one of the most effective ways to lose weight. But as anyone who meticulously measures out portions sizes and counts the calorie content of every meal will tell you, it requires a ton of time and patience.
Or does it?
New research out of the University Of South Carolina has found you don’t have to spend hours with your head buried in a food diary to see big results.
140 participants were asked to keep track of their daily eating habits and cooking methods via an app over a six-month period. The most successful participants lost up to 10 per cent of their body weight (which, considering the average Australian woman weighs 70kg, roughly equates to 7kgs). Interestingly, they also spent the least amount of time on the activity: 23 mins a day in the first month, which dropped down to 15 mins by the end of the study.
“People hate it; they think it’s onerous and awful, but the question we had was: How much time does dietary self-monitoring really take?” said lead author, Jean Harvey, chair of the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at the University of Vermont. “The answer is, not very much.
The trick, as Harvey explained, is not to wait until the end of the day to jot it all down, but to complete “brief but frequent” dietary check-ins throughout the day. This way, you’ll become more mindful of how much you are consuming as it happens, and, in turn, eat less.
And the best part? The findings suggest it doesn’t matter how diligently you keep track of what you consume. The simple act of putting pen to paper is enough.
“Those who self-monitored three or more times per day, and were consistent day after day were the most successful,” Harvey added. “It seems to be the act of self-monitoring itself that makes the difference – not the time spent or the details included.”