You check in with your spouse, kiddos, and coworkers—but do you remember to check in with yourself?
Self-monitoring, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is when “individuals keep a record of their behavior ...especially in connection with efforts to change or control the self.” So what does checking in with yourself have to do with weight care? A lot, actually!
Monitoring your habits can be key to a successful weight care journey. But don’t just take our word for it—science shows that frequent and consistent self-monitoring is associated with greater weight loss and keeping weight off long-term.
One important note: by self-monitoring, we don’t mean calorie restriction. That is— setting a daily limit and tracking every calorie you eat (and burn). If you’ve ever tried a similar tactic, you probably already know it’s not your best bet for sustainable weight loss. That’s because staying within a strict calorie limit can start to feel more like a game of Tetris rather than an investigation into the why behind your behaviors. Besides, it can have some not-so-great effects on how you view food.
Let’s dig into effective self-monitoring, the pros and cons, and ways to get started.
There are many ways to self-monitor on a weight care journey, but keeping a digital or paper-based log to track your food, exercise, and weight is the most common.
Aside from encouraging awareness of your behaviors, self-monitoring also involves actively working to change certain behaviors.
The Found app is not only a super convenient way to track healthy behaviors, but it’s also effective. One study found that those using a digital assistant platform that provides feedback (like the Found app) tend to lose more weight and keep it off compared to those recording their behaviors on paper. The real kicker? They were more likely to stick with self-monitoring at the six-month mark!
That’s likely due to the sense of support people feel when they know others—like Found community members and coaches—are cheering them on. Because as we know, a lack of social support can be a huge barrier to consistent logging. Of 15 people interviewed after completing a behavioral weight loss program for a weight loss study, those who reported a lack of social support were less likely to stick with self-monitoring than those who felt adequately supported.
Provides concrete insight into your behaviors
Research shows that most people overestimate the health of their eating behaviors. Laying it all out increases your awareness around behaviors you may have otherwise not noticed—ones that could be preventing you from reaching your goals.
Keeps it personal
It can be easy to play the comparison game while on a weight care journey. But, as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. By staying focused on your personal journey through self-monitoring, you’re able to see how far you’ve come, which is a huge motivator.
Helps you stick with it
A systematic review showed that self-monitoring was consistently associated with weight loss in behavioral obesity treatment. One study of two groups, one given 3 mg of liraglutide weekly, the other a placebo, found that both groups lost weight. For both groups, those who self-monitored their nutrition and got the recommended 250 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity lost an average of 7.2 percent of their weight after 56 weeks. Those who didn’t self-monitor lost less weight—just 2 percent—during the same period.
Supports health beyond the scale
While seeing the scale move can be encouraging, it’s not always the best indicator that what you’re doing is working. That’s why it’s important to look for benefits that don’t involve the scale, too. Science shows that self-monitoring appears to lead to less time spent sedentary and improvements in moderate physical activity—which could help reduce your risk of certain metabolic diseases.
We’ve all been there, overzealous and ambitious to log every habit, only to find ourselves quickly burnt out. You’re not alone! In fact, research shows that self-monitoring tends to decline over time, specifically within three to five weeks after starting.
And we get it; it can start to feel tedious—heck, even boring! But opening that app for just a few minutes each day is time well spent. And it’s not necessarily the time spent monitoring, or even how detailed you get, that’s important—but rather the frequency of your logging. Research shows that those who had greater weight loss success and maintenance spent less than 25 minutes a day logging during the first month of their weight loss journey. And after six months, they spent under 15 minutes a day logging! Those who lost the most weight and maintained their loss logged roughly three times per day.
The takeaway: Don’t worry about the lack of detail in your logs, but aim to get those logs in more frequently!
May feel ‘punishy’
You may be going into this with no hard feelings. Still, as with calorie counting, self-monitoring can occasionally trigger guilt and shame. Especially if you’re logging with failure, rather than success, in mind. Try to think of self-monitoring as a tool for encouragement, not punishment!
You wouldn’t talk down to a friend, would you? Remember to speak kindly to yourself as well. Think of yourself as an investigator of your habits, and try not to always fixate on what needs to change.
At Found, we believe that weight care is more complex than just “eat less, move more.” We recognize that one’s biology, psychology, and environment contribute to their weight.
This is why within the Found app, which can be synced with Apple Health and Google Fit, you’ll find nine [behaviors] (movement, sleep, mood, etc.) that members are encouraged to log. For each behavior, members log consistently, and we provide tips, feedback, and encouragement to keep the streak going.
Logging is not only important for members to monitor their progress, but it’s also a way for Found Coaches to gain insight into what’s working well and where members may need more support.
So there we have it; self-monitoring may actually help you lose weight—and keep it off. Weight loss success with self-monitoring is not determined by how much time you spend logging but rather by how consistent you are.
Our advice? Try tracking only a handful of behaviors at a time—for long enough to collect data on where you see room for improvement. From there, you’ll get a better idea of which routine requires the most attention so you can start to make long-lasting changes that become habits.
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.