If you’re struggling to manage weight, using digital tools can help you.
So many of our daily behaviors and health habits have a big effect on one’s weight, including what and how much you eat, how you move or don’t move your body along with your stress level and mood.
Whether you track your diet, physical activity or sleep habits, you can feel more in control of daily habits that have implications for health and weight.
As I tell my patients, you can think of digital tools as an electronic dashboard that allows you to look at your diet, physical activity and body weight numbers and get immediate feedback as to how you’re doing.
Here are more reasons to start using or revisit using digital tools today.
Many of these were discussed by Dr. J Graham Thomas and Dr. Carly Goldstein during their excellent ‘Let’s Get Digital’ session given at the Obesity Action Coalition Your Weight Matters 2021 Virtual Conference.
1-Digital Tools Can Complement Any Weight Loss Program
Whether you’re doing a WW online program, following my Six Factors to Fit self-help book or just downsizing your portion sizes and undertaking a self-paced walking program, diet and physical activity related digital tools can foster both calorie and physical activity awareness.
Calorie-counting websites or smartphone mobile apps like MyFitnessPal, Lose It! or CalorieKing are free and generally easy to use; many apps also have barcode scanners to make the on-the-go food choices easier.
The act of pausing, reflecting and recording is a powerful strategy for increasing mindfulness, planning ahead and taking better control of calorie intake and physical activity habits.
2-Digital Tools Allow for Personalization
One-size does not fit all when it comes to using digital tools.
One person may find wearing a Fitbit to track physical activity boring while someone else may find it motivating to get in more steps. Others may actually find it fun as they ‘compete’ with friends to see who can get in the most steps week-to-week.
If poor sleep habits are getting in the way of you making healthy eating and exercise choices then tracking your sleep habits is a good start. This can reveal how many hours of sleep you get each night and whether it is disrupted with episodic bouts of awakenings.
Are you the kind of person who finds using a calorie counter motivating to stay within a recommended calorie range or do you find it tedious and de-motivating?
If you find it tedious, I suggest you commit to tracking for just 1-2 weeks to start. That is often enough time to discover troublesome eating patterns.
Another approach is to do ‘selective tracking’ where you only track at times when eating healthfully is difficult, like on weekends or after dinner.
3-Digital Tools Can Help Catch Lapses Early
Anyone trying to manage weight long term knows that with time, weight regain can occur.
Some people who lapse will stop self-monitoring because they’re either too disappointed or ashamed to see what is happening or they pretend that things are not as bad as they seem.
Avoiding this self-reflection is a mistake and may lead to a full relapse of weight and undesirable behaviors.
Instead, consider your scale, smartphone apps and wearable activity trackers as practical tools that help to keep weight off easier.
Know that daily weighing and selective or targeted tracking of diet and physical activity can help prevent weight regain, portion creep and activity slowdown that is so common in weight management.
Robert Kushner, MD