Self-monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature

There are many people who suffer every day due to the state of their unhealthy bodies. Losing weight is probably the biggest struggle adults of this century face. With the many options to eat from the multiple different franchises built everywhere around the world, losing weight has become a cumbersome task. Even then, there are many people who invest in gym memberships, order diet plans, hire trainers, get the best fit for their gym outfits to gain motivation to lose weight, but this wave quickly disappears after a short amount of time as they don’t see an enormous difference. They start skipping the gym and stop working out. After that very soon their cheat days become part of their routine, and all their hard work goes to waste. 

Losing weight should be prioritized not just to look good, but also to be healthier. It has been well-researched that people who exercise frequently and have the right body mass index according to their height, are very likely to prevent themselves from a lot of health problems. However, many people wonder as to what can be done to efficiently lose weight and not fall short during this journey, the answer to it by simply recording all the progress from the start to the end. Association of self-monitoring with your weight loss journey has proved to act as a stimulant to keep all these people stay on track and continue their process of shedding weight in the most efficient manner.

Why is self-monitoring important when trying to lose weight? What are the different ways through which it can be done?

Self-monitoring is also known as a behavioral intervention opted to analyze progress made on an everyday basis. The main purpose of this strategy is to help measure the number of calories burned and the number of calories taken, the calorie deficit is what helps lose weight and get rid of the excess fat buildup inside the body. 

There can be three components of self-monitoring that can be implemented; 

  • Through diet
  • Through exercise 
  • Through self-weighing.

It depends solely on the person wishing to lose weight, who decides what is best for them and which one of the three can help adequately in their situation. All three of these components can be recorded to analyze the progress of burning calories and choosing which one works best. This self-monitoring technique requires a lot of consistency and timeliness, as these regulatory skills act as a motivation marker for the ones who find losing weight difficult. It is well established that the weight loss process takes a lot of time and results can only be visible after consistent hard work and dedication. 

The ways through which this technique can be practiced can be through many mediums, one can maintain a writing journal, where all the day’s activity and food intake can be noted down. The second most frequently used these days is using the electronic medium to keep track of not just the amount of calories taken per serving, but also the amount of exercise that needs to be inculcated during the day to burn off those calories. 

There are many studies conducted to see how well the practice of recording all the details about losing weight, actually helped in it. A study published in 2010, that reviewed the best form of self-monitoring medium for the ones who wished to lose weight. Very interestingly, it was found that the ones who monitored their calorie intake, physical activity, and self-weighing on electronic mediums had profound results, with maximum reduction in waist circumference as compared to the ones who used the traditional method of noting it all down in a diary/journal. The intake of saturated fats also decreased in the ones who used the means of electronic medium with a personal digital assistant helping them stay motivated. With all the effective results that were seen among people who used technology as a medium to record their weight loss journey, the ones who used the rather traditional methods were seen to have better adherence to their fitness regime. 

Another meta-analysis done after reviewing 22 studies, showed that even though most people preferred to personally note down their progress on sheets of paper, it has now been observed that many are also achieving their targeted weight by self-monitoring, using the help of software and applications over the internet. Another form of distinction as seen in these studies was the choice of selecting either one of the three behavioral components or all three for effective results. It was later stressed that maintaining the record of diet, physical activity/exercise, as well as self-weighing at the end of the day to monitor weight loss, can be most beneficial as opposed to using one singular component.


  1. Burke LE, Wang J, Sevick MA. Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2011 Jan 1;111(1):92-102.
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