It can be difficult to develop healthy habits such as: B. increasing physical activity and improving eating habits to sustain long term, especially without accountability. Research from the Center for Weight, Eating, and Lifestyle Science (WELL Center) at Drexel University's College of Arts and Sciences suggests that health professionals who have access to self-monitored health data would improve a person's maintenance of weight loss.
The researchers studied 87 adult participants in a 12-month weight loss program. Throughout the study, participants were asked to do three self-monitoring activities per day: wear a Fitbit fitness tracker, weigh yourself on a wireless scale, and track their food intake on a smartphone app.
All participants began with a weekly group session to learn behavioral skills during the first three months of the study. After the third month, the group sessions ended. From this point on until the end of the study – the so-called maintenance phase – each participant only received a weekly text message and a monthly call with their coach.
"This is the time that is often difficult for people who want to lose weight," said Meghan Butryn, PhD, Lead study author, associate professor at the College of Arts and Sciences, and research director at the WELL Center. "And weight that is initially lost tends to regain weight."
During the maintenance phase, participants were randomized so that half of them worked with a coach who had access to their self-monitoring data. The coach addressed the data during the phone calls and text messages. For the other half of the participants, the trainers couldn't see any data from the Fitbit, wireless scale, or digital food record.
Trainers shared what they saw from participants' self-monitoring data about changes in eating habits, weight, and physical activity, and helped participants assess how well they had achieved their goals. For example, on a phone call, a counselor might say, “You have set a goal of five workouts a week for the past month, and I see that you only did two a week on average. Tell me more about what happened. "
The researchers said that while the study was small, the pattern suggests that trainers who had access to data helped participants reduce their weight.
“We were interested to see if maintaining weight loss would be better if the trainers could see the data and provide feedback and accountability to participants, which could help maintain high levels of motivation to engage in healthy eating habits and physical activity maintain. Butryn said.
Butryn added that this will spur additional research that considers questions about supportive accountability effectiveness such as: If your GP could see all of your Fitbit exercise data, would that motivate you to be more physically active?
The study "Counselor Monitoring Digital Self-Monitoring Data: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study" was published in Obesity in October 2020. The authors include Mary Martinelli and Nicole Crane, PhD students; Kathryn Godfrey, PhD; Savannah Roberts; Fengqing Zhang, PhD and Evan Forman, PhD from Drexel University.