Cheryl Shigaki, an associate professor in the MU School of Health Professions, said current weight loss recommendations are essentially the same as they were decades ago, but each generation has to learn how to manage modern challenges to healthy living.
She said that information technology repackages traditional weight loss strategies and provides new tools, such as exercise logs and nutritional databases, to implement that knowledge.
According to Shigaki, prior research on weight loss programming has shown that social and informational supports are important for individuals' dieting success, along with learning skills for self-management, problem-solving and behavior change.
Smartphone apps can increase access to information, and people generally are willing to explore many different weight loss applications, Shigaki said. Although use of those apps may increase participants' engagement and persistence, individuals still must practice accountability for their health behaviors to succeed, Shigaki said.
She said when people use information technology to support their weight-loss efforts, they tend to access features that streamline the tracking of daily health behaviors, such as caloric intake and exercise, or that provide visual feedback on their overall progress, like graphs showing weight lost over time.
Shigaki said self-monitoring is key to successful weight loss, and information technology can make these tasks more convenient. We also found that people really liked getting feedback on their progress, which motivated them and helped them better evaluate their health behaviors and plan for future success.