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Expert Q&A

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What are good online tracking tools for weight loss?

Asked by Paula, Kentucky

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I am looking for an online tracking tool to use for keeping track of daily calories and exercise. Any suggestions on the most user-friendly sites? I am not really interested in participating in message boards, but thoroughly enjoy reading articles about health issues.

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Paula - Tracking your daily food and exercise is a great idea if you are trying to lose weight. A large study recently showed that keeping a food journal can double your weight loss. I ask all of my patients to keep food and exercise journals as it helps me really customize their weight loss plans. I ask patients to make notes in their journal letting me know if they are hungry, tired or stressed throughout the day as this sort of information can help them develop a permanent weight loss program uniquely suited for them. You can do the same by reviewing your own journal on a weekly basis after your weekly weigh in (I don't believe in weighing yourself more than once a week if you are trying to lose weight). Try to pay attention to which of your meals really satisfies your hunger, what times of day (or days) that you are particularly vulnerable to hunger or poor meal choices so that you can plan better, and try to identify small diet or exercise changes that you can make on an ongoing basis to continue losing weight.

I give all of my patients an actual food and exercise journal that you can buy, so I haven't really evaluated any online tracking tools (and don't have an affiliation with any), but many of my patients prefer to track their food and exercise online and bring in the printed handouts for me to review. Many of them actually create their own spreadsheets so they can add in all the details that are relevant to their chosen diet and exercise plan. Some of the more popular sites they use include fitday.com and thedailyplate.com, which are free, and myfooddiary.com and Weight Watchers online journals, each of which charge a fee. Many of my patients have iPhones and love the iPhone application called 'Lose it.' If you eat out often, be sure that any site that you use has a large database of restaurant choices so you can accurately assess daily caloric intake. If you want to figure out how many calories you are burning daily through exercise and lifestyle activities, one of my favorite sites is http://www.caloriesperhour.com/. Another feature that I would look for is the ability to keep track of weekly accomplishments. Oftentimes, during the course of losing weight, the scale will not be as responsive as you would like and being able to look back over your accomplishments since you started, whether they are diet or exercise related, can be very motivating and can help keep you on track.

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