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Previous research has shown that keeping food and exercise diaries improves the likelihood of success when trying to shed excess weight. Using a computer or pen and paper to record information, however, can be a burden and cause some people to give up.
The key to losing weight may be right at your fingertips. A new study from Duke University found that keeping a food and exercise diary is way less effective than tracking your goals through text messaging. That makes sense: Texting saves time and is more convenient.
The study followed 26 obese women (average age: 38), who got daily motivational texts to help them reach personal goals, like avoiding sugary drinks or walking 10,000 steps a day. Every morning, they woke up to this automated text: “Please text yesterday's # of steps you walked, # of sugary drinks and if you ate fast food.” The system sent them personalized feedback and a tip based on their responses.
After six months, the 26 texters each lost about 3 pounds, while a group of 24 women who tracked their health habits in more traditional ways gained an average of 2.5 pounds.
Study author Dori Steinberg, a postdoctoral obesity …
Trade progress reports. “Tell each other how many steps you took during the previous day, whether you had a sugary beverage (hopefully not!), whether you visited a fast food restaurant, and how many fruits and veggies you ate.”
Incentivize each other. “Place a wager — say, the person who loses the biggest proportion of their weight has to take the other person to a movie or a manicure (something that doesn't involve food).”
Choose your buddy wisely. “You want a pal who's going to motivate you and participate with you rather than the gal who encourages you to skip your workout ‘just this one time’.”
Research shows that when people keep track of their diet and exercise habits, they do better at losing weight. But sticking with detailed monitoring of what you eat and your exercise habits electronically or via traditional pen and paper can prove cumbersome. If people stop doing it, they may stop losing weight.