For many of us, however, the task of keeping a detailed account of what we eat and how we exercise — either electronically or via pen and paper — is cumbersome.
Unfortunately, when people stop recording their intake and output, they may also stop losing weight.
Tracking this information through text messages could save time and improve the likelihood of people sticking with their get-healthy routine, say researchers at Duke University.
Their study, published in the online edition of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that after six months, 26 obese women who used daily texting as part of the Shape Plan weight-loss intervention lost nearly 3 pounds, while another 24 who followed traditional methods gained 2 1/2 pounds. The average age of participants was 38.
The daily text messages focused on tracking tailored behavioral goals (i.e., no sugary drinks, 10,000 steps per day) along with brief feedback and tips.
Every morning, participants got a text from an automated system that said, “Please text yesterday’s # of steps you walked, # of sugary drinks, and if you ate fast food.”
Based on how they responded to the text, the automated system sent another text with personalized feedback and a tip.
“Text messaging has become ubiquitous and may be an effective method to simplify tracking of diet and exercise behaviors,” said lead author Dori Steinberg,Ph.D., a post-doctoral obesity researcher in the Duke Obesity Prevention Program.
Text messaging offers several advantages compared to other self-monitoring methods, she said:
The study primarily focused on helping obese black women lose weight (82 percent of participants were black).
Researchers said that’s because 59 percent of black women are obese, and many use cell phones. This combination makes text messaging a good way to reach this high-risk population.
About half of participants texted every day throughout the six-month program, with 85 percent texting at least two days per week. Most participants reported that that texting was easy, and helped them meet their goals.
The key challenge in weight loss is helping people keep weight off for the long-term. So the next step is to see if texting can help people maintain their weight loss.
“Given the increasing utilization of mobile devices, text messaging may be a useful tool for weight loss, particularly among populations most in need of weight-loss treatment,” Steinberg said.
Source: Duke University