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How effective is a food log for weight loss?

In a study published in Obesity, researchers investigated whether the use of a food log for weight loss is effective although it is time-consuming.

There are over one billion overweight adults worldwide. The global weight loss and management market are expected to be worth $278.95 billion by the end of 2023. Weight loss methods cover the spectrum from weight loss surgery, fitness plans, and diet plans, to weight loss centers, programs, and clubs. With all these options available, it turns out that one of the most effective weight loss methods is the simple food log.

Food logs can become inconvenient and time-consuming

The problem with the food log is that recording all food and drinks including portion size and preparation becomes inconvenient and time-consuming. However, with the prevalence of smartphones and apps, it has become much easier to keep a food log to help track the weight loss journey. To determine how much time individuals successful at weight loss spent self-monitoring, researchers from the University of Vermont and the University of South Carolina completed a US study published in Obesity which tracked participants in a weight loss study using an electronic food log.

The study was a sub-study of the Internet Obesity Treatment Enhanced with Motivational Interviewing (iReach2) study. One hundred forty-two participants enrolled and were an average age of 48.9 years old with a BMI between 25 and 50. The participants’ height and weight were measured at the beginning of the study.

Over the first six months of the study, participants were asked to complete a daily food log. Participants used the iReach2 study website to record their daily intake. Given the food log data, the website returned real-time feedback and calories remaining for daily intake. Researchers tracked the amount of time participants spent on the website daily, and the number of times participants logged in.

More weight lost with consistent food log use

At the end of six months, 65.5% of participants were still using the food log. The more often participants logged in, the more time they spent tracking weight loss with the food log and the more weight they lost. The amount of time spent on the food log decreased by 8.6 minutes from month one to month six. The participants that were still using the food log at month six lost more weight than those who did not log on at all. Those that lost more than 5-10% used the food log much more frequently.

Researchers determined to be successful with weight loss, the food log needed to be used at least two to three time per day. Those who lost more than 10% were still using the food log at least 20 days per month at the end of the study.

Because all the data was tracked online, the study results may not apply to other food log tracking methods, such as paper-based. Other limitations included the results were from the beginning of weight loss tracking and were not from the weight maintenance phase. Participants were enrolled in a weight-loss study, and results may not be the same for people that are not involved in a weight loss research program. Also, the food log website was not able to track food data with exact specificity.

The study does show that using a food log is a great aid to success in weight loss. Positive results can be found without committing large amounts of time. In the press release, the lead author, Jean Harvey summed it up best when she said, “It’s highly effective, and it’s not as hard as people think.”

Written by Rebecca K. Blankenship, B.Sc.


  1. Harvey J, Krukowski R, Priest J, West D. Log Often, Lose More: Electronic Dietary Self-Monitoring for Weight Loss. Obesity. 2019;27(3):380-384. doi:10.1002/oby.22382
  2. Weight Loss Statistics – Worldometers. Published 2019. Accessed March 22, 2019.
  3. Global Weight Loss and Weight Management Market 2018 Analysis, Size, Share, Facts and Figures with Products Overview, Services and Forecast 2023 – Reuters. Published 2019. Accessed March 22, 2019.
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship BSc
Rebecca Blankenship is a freelance technical writer. She reviews, edits, and authors internal quality documentation required for regulatory compliance. She has twenty years experience in industrial pharma/medical device quality management systems and an honors BSc in chemistry. She is a natural born rule follower and enjoys applying this strength to help others be audit ready to meet regulatory requirements. She also loves learning about the latest scientific discoveries while writing for Medical News Bulletin. Her free time is spent as a full-time mom, encouraging can-do attitudes and cooperation in her three children.


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