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Consistent self-monitoring in a commercial app-based intervention for weight loss: results from a randomized trial

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Self-monitoring is the strongest predictor of success in lifestyle interventions for obesity. In this secondary analysis of the GoalTracker trial, we describe outcomes of consistently self-monitoring in a standalone weight loss intervention. The 12-week intervention focused on daily self-monitoring of diet and/or body weight in a commercial app (MyFitnessPal). Participants (N = 100; 21–65 years; BMI 25–45 kg/m2) were categorized as Consistent Trackers if they tracked ≥ 6 out of 7 days for at least 75% of the targeted weeks. One-fourth of participants were Consistent Trackers. This subset was more likely to be married or living with a partner, be non-Hispanic White, and have higher health literacy than Inconsistent Trackers (ps < .05). Consistent tracking was associated with greater weight change than inconsistent tracking at 1 month (mean difference [95% CI] − 1.11 kg [− 2.12, − 0.10]), 3 months (− 2.42 kg [− 3.80, − 1.04]), and 6 months (− 2.13 kg [− 3.99, − 0.27]). Over 3 times as many Consistent Trackers as Inconsistent Trackers achieved ≥ 5% weight loss at 3 months (48 vs. 13%) and at 6 months (54 vs. 15%; ps < .001). Though causality cannot be determined by the present study, tracking weight and/or diet nearly every day per week for 12 weeks in a commercial app may serve as an effective strategy for weight loss. Strategies are needed to promote greater consistency in tracking.

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The study was funded by grants to the first author from the American Psychological Association, the Duke Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center, and the Aleane Webb Dissertation Research Award provided by The Graduate School at Duke University.

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Correspondence to Michele L. Patel.

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Gary G. Bennett serves on the scientific advisory board of Nutrisystem and Interactive Health and holds equity in Coeus Health. Michele L. Patel and Taylor L. Brooks declare that they have no conflict of interests.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Patel, M.L., Brooks, T.L. & Bennett, G.G. Consistent self-monitoring in a commercial app-based intervention for weight loss: results from a randomized trial. J Behav Med 43, 391–401 (2020).

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