Study: Tech + Tracking Helps You Stick with Your Weight-Loss Plan

By , SparkPeople Blogger

Something in common with many of the Success Stories on SparkPeople is that those members used our free Nutrition and Fitness Trackers to help them reach their weight loss goal. Being able to track your nutrition intake and how much fitness activity you do really does help to figure out the right balance for not only weight loss, but for maintaining your weight as well. A new study confirms and suggests what many of us already know, which is that people who use electronic diaries that offer feedback are more likely to adhere to their weight loss program.

The study followed participants using a paper diary, an electronic device that provided no feedback and an electronic device that had a program that offered feedback. As you might guess, the group of participants that used the electronic device that had a program that offered feedback was more successful and was more likely to stick with their weight loss program over time. It was also found that over time in the later phase of the program, if the feedback frequency declined, so did the participants’ adherence to their weight loss program. Even more interesting is that the participants who only used the paper diary were less likely to continue with their program, especially over time.

So what does that tell us? Well, the SparkPeople members who are already using our Nutrition and Fitness Trackers on the website or on their mobile device are well on their way to reaching their goals and becoming a success story. Also, for those of you that track your food in our Nutrition Tracker, you can also find that you can get daily feedback about how you are doing with meeting your nutrition goals (and how to make some changes if you miss a particular nutrition goal). As mentioned in the study, that was a big key to the participants staying with their program and meeting their weight loss goals.

What do you think about this study? Do you think having a program like SparkPeople’s Nutrition and Fitness Tracker’s, along with the feedback it offers, helps you stick with your weight loss plan?

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I have (finally) been tracking my food faithfully for over a week now, and it's helping me in multiple ways. I'm really surprised to see how much I'm learning from it, and the daily nutrition report feedback. I'm so grateful for SparkPeople! Report
The SP’s tracker has helped me lose 6 lbs in 6 wks! My previous attempts, where I tried tracking on paper, failed. Report
My daily goal is to match my pie chart with the recommended nutrients chart at the end of each day. I have learned so much and would not have lasted three months without the daily feedback reports. I plan on running a couple reports to take to my next doctor's appointment. I feel great! Report
I lost 50 pounds (very slowly) on my own before starting to track my nutrition and fitness with SP, but once I started tracking, I lost weight SO much faster and I do not think I would have succeeded with my 100 pound total loss without those trackers! They have been CRUCIAL, and they are a critical part of my (hopefully) successful maintenance as well. I love them! Report
I upgraded my phone for this purpose. I love the tracking and it loves me. Report
I do both... writing and tracking here on SP. Writing is good if you can't get through to SP for whatever reason, so I keep both going. Report
I like to write things by hand but, like this article notes, I am less successful. I only stick with my plan for, at most, a week. Many times I have only made it a few days. The response from others, even the one word or emoticon comments, make me feel good. I feel like there are people out there that don't even know me, who want to see my succeed. That is why I love this online community! Report
I'd like more analysis feedback of my tracking on Sparks. Are there trends that Sparks can see and tell me about in my nutrition and fitness? Am I consistently doing something good, bad? I'd love that kind of feedback. Report
Yes yes yes! I've done written food tracking in the past, but doing it online is so easy. And the community support sure beats a written list! Report
I love the nutrition tracker and it really does keep you honest. When you write everything (and I mean everything) you really see how your calories break down. Report
Absolutely - I am here, every day, working with the trackers to help me be honest, well rounded and informed. I have tried every other way in the book - and some not in the books - but this is the one and only one that works for me in the long term! Report
Thanks for the comment, RAWHIDE64. When making statements like an article here, I find it very important to write all the information rather than pick and choose what sounds cool. Report
I use the nutrition and exercise tracker. They're so convenient and I can access them from my home computer or IPhone. I find if I don't track my stuff, I don't keep myself accountable. Report
Love the nutrition tracker! Helps me keep track of every little morsel I put in my mouth and its great on the go too! Report
I have the SP website saved as my homepage on my computer and I also have the tracker on my smartphone...It is extremely useful although I just have to make sure I am on it every day...I don't track every day which is obviously something I need to work on, but I find that when I have everything right at my fingertips and can access all the boards and teams as well as my Spark page, I do much better...I love my SP apps!!! Report
It helps me a lot. I just don't find the time to put on paper but if I can click a button and its all basically logged in i can scroll to my food and they calculate for me. I am so glad I found SparkPeople. OMW to SUCCESS! Report
Love my SP apps! Report
I totally and completely agree with this article. Between my sparkpeople app and my Mapmyrun app - I've lost 21.5 pounds since October! Report
Tracking and feedback are important!

Losing weight and getting healthier don't always work "as anticipated," even when the effort is whole-hearted, follows recommendations, and there are devices, tracking, and feedback all in play.

(I use an on-body activity tracker, as well as food and exercise diaries, but this study did not address electronic activity tracking.)

But even in cases where progress is difficult, tracking and feedback are still hugely strategic. First, the combination of tracking and feedback enrich honest dialogue with oneself.

Further, tracking generates concrete and documented outcomes that can be really useful when consulting medical providers. Instead of the too-easily discounted wail of "but doctor, I work out all the time and am eating well" there's some real information to share. If there's some other medical issue in play, this can help patient and doctor cut to the chase.... Report
I have tracked on paper and through SP. I definitely like tracking with feedback, especially since I have to keep up with a variety of information. Report
I love the tracking and feed back on The Spark People tracker. It really motivates me and inspires me to keep with it. Report
Absolutely! I track everything, and I believe that is the key reason I have stuck with my exercise and good nutrition. I have already lost 100 lbs since I joined Spark, and I doubt I would have managed it without the trackers and the feedback I have gotten. Report
I think its a simple matter of "out of sight, out of mind". The trackers remind me to remain accountable to myself everyday. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't care nearly as much. Report
Yes, yes, YES! I can *not* live without my SP app. It's helped me in sticky situations in restaurants too many times. I hope SP continues to update it with additional features like access to the Notes in the trackers. Report
I think this is absolutely accurate. I've noticed that when I don't track my food & exercise I tend to deviate from my routine but when I do work out I'm totally excited to log that in and tell sparkpeople all about it. This encourages me to keep logging with sparkpeople so the program can be more effective and I can meet my goals. Report
I personally prefer the feedback I get from the Spark People tracker.

That said, the American Heart Association press release on this includes this: "After 24 months, however, weight loss was similar in all three groups, according to the study, which is scheduled to be presented Thursday at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in San Diego." Additionally this information has not gone through a peer review so it's preliminary information and it's too early to etch it in stone.