Are you trying to lose weight? Make it a success with science, scales and apps
30 January 2018
First published on the Oxford CLAHRC website.
The year 2018 has just begun and once again thousands of people have made a new year’s resolution to lose weight and live more healthily.
Regardless of whether you just want to lose a bit of belly or if you have a major weight loss plan in mind, how can you help yourself stick to your weight-loss goals?
I want to propose something simple to help achieve your goals: weigh yourself regularly.
Why? Because many studies have found that regularly weighing yourself while on a weight loss plan increases your chances of success1.
Researchers think this is because the weighing reminds you to check in with your goals and provides feedback on your progress2. In fact, a few studies indicate that weighing yourself more often – that is on a weekly or daily basis – is associated with ‘greater weight loss outcomes’3-5, i.e. more weight lost.
However, it’s important to remember that your day-to-day weight can vary quite a bit, and it’s the longer-term trend you need to keep in mind. This can be surprisingly difficult, especially during busy periods.
Fortunately, it has never been so easy to track your weight as it is today, with masses of apps offering weight-tracking functions.
WHAT’S THE RIGHT WEIGHT-TRACKER FOR YOU?
The Android and Apple app stores provide lots of options for weight-trackers – but how to choose between them?
Many general weight loss apps have a weight-tracking function, for example “Lose It!” by FitNow, Inc. or “My Diet Coach – Weight Loss” by InspiredApps (A.L) LTD. These apps offer additional weight loss support and might be useful if you do not have a weight loss strategy yet.
But, if you have your strategy sorted already and fancy a less time-consuming solution, you might opt for a simple weight-tracker. These are quick and easy to use. You just open the app, enter your weight and receive feedback in the form of a graph or statistics on your progress, for example.
At its simplest, a weight-tracker provides a simple graph showing your weight loss over time, as well as a history of your weight measurements.
The majority of weight-trackers provide you with a BMI calculator and many offer you the option to set a regular reminder to weigh yourself. Additional features vary between apps.
I’ve checked out the features and user reviews of some of the most popular simple weight-trackers to help you find the right one for you.
CHEER FOR VICTORY
Some apps, like the “Weight Log & BMI Calculator” by aktiWir GmbH will give you a cheer when you have lost weight.
It might sound childish, but users say that it really does give you a shot of extra motivation on a grey January day6.
KEEP AN EYE ON TRENDS
The app “Libra – Weight Manager” by Daniel Cachapa is one of the more comprehensive weight-tracking apps on the Google Play store.
Next to a simple weight loss graph, it also provides a trend line making it easy to see the big picture, a target line to help keep your goal in sight and a prediction of the date on which you will reach your goal weight based on your weight loss progress so far. You can also add notes to each day’s entry if you wanted, so that you can keep a diary of your weight loss activities on each day.
FOR THE DATA LOVERS
If you have a scale that estimates your muscle or body fat percentage or you want to check your progress with a tape measure round your middle, you might want to try an app such as “Weight Loss Tracker – RecStyle” by MEDIANO Co.,Ltd., which allows you to track your weight, BMI, body fat percentage, muscle percentage and waist circumference.
‘Smart’ scales are also supported by a few apps, including the feature-rich “Monitor Your Weight” app by Husain Al-Bustan, allowing you to automatically synchronise your body composition measurements with the app rather than having to enter them manually.
SAVE YOUR PROGRESS
As you continue weighing yourself and collecting data about your weight loss progress, you might want to think about protecting your data from a glitch. Believe me, it’s not fun when an app loses years of data that you have painfully entered!
I therefore recommend you choose a weight-tracker that allows you to save your data, for example by exporting a file to Google Drive or to your SD card. Some apps also allow you to synchronise your data with Google fit.
SOME MORE TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED
Whichever tracker you use, here are a few useful tips:
- Place your scales on a flat and hard surface, carpet floors can influence the weighing results.
- It makes sense to weigh yourself at a similar time of day, wearing similar clothes, to make it easier to compare your weight records between days and interpret trends in your data.
- Be aware that there are normal fluctuations in your weight that can for instance result from the amount of food waste in your gut or the amount of alcohol consumed the day before causing dehydration. So try to focus on weight trends rather than today’s number – a weight-tracking app can really help to give you this overview.
- If you have started doing a lot of exercise, be aware that you might gain muscle mass. The scales might therefore not show any weight loss even though you are actually losing fat. To get feedback on these changes in body composition, you can track body measurements, for example of your waist.
The great news is that you can download most weight-tracking apps for free, so go to the app store and give a few apps a go. After a few days you will find out which one you like best. Happy weight-tracking!
Have you become interested in the science of weight-tracking? If you want to learn more about my research, please visit the following links:
- Madigan CD, Daley AJ, Lewis AL, Aveyard P, Jolly K. Is self-weighing an effective tool for weight loss: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity. 2015;12:104.
- Boutelle K. Letters to the Editor. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2006;38(3):131.
- Helander EE, Vuorinen AL, Wansink B, Korhonen IK. Are breaks in daily self-weighing associated with weight gain? PLoS One. 2014;9(11):e113164.
- LaRose JG, Lanoye A, Tate DF, Wing RR. Frequency of self-weighing and weight loss outcomes within a brief lifestyle intervention targeting emerging adults. Obes Sci Pract. 2016;2(1):88-92.
- Steinberg DM, Bennett GG, Askew S, Tate DF. Weighing every day matters: daily weighing improves weight loss and adoption of weight control behaviors. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015;115(4):511-518.
- Frie K, Hartmann-Boyce J, Jebb S, Albury C, Nourse R, Aveyard P. Insights From Google Play Store User Reviews for the Development of Weight Loss Apps: Mixed-Method Analysis. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2017;5(12):e203.
*Phone image adapted from original work created by Natanaelginting - Freepik.com