Triumph Over Weight-Loss Tracking Tedium

Make time to track your progress, even after the initial rush wears off.
Cindy Hatcher

Not long after adopting their diet-tracking apps and UP exercise bands, our Social Dieters learned that even the thrill of losing weight can't always compensate for the time it takes to track every bite and step.

This is a conundrum that Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, knows well. "Research shows exercise trackers are effective when they're seamless and you don't have to spend time doing them," he says. Many exercise trackers fit that profile, but food trackers can trip users up since they often require time spent tediously logging individual ingredients—a factor that will hopefully change as ingredient databases expand and new products reach the market. "Hardly anyone keeps a food log longer than a month," Duhigg says.

How do you keep the weight-loss momentum going without turning tracking into a tiresome time-suck? "According to our data, most users who stop will return after a short period if they receive encouragement," says Ken Nesmith, head of strategy at Noom, a weight-loss-tracking app. Encouragement—or reward—helps transition a behavior change into a sustainable habit.

Every habit has three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward. Almost anything can serve as a cue—scheduling an appointment in your calendar is a simple one. That helps create the routine. Then comes the best part, the part that cements the routine: the reward.

Preemptively factor a treat into your day—maybe when you're logging your food. "Reward yourself with something you actually like—not something you're supposed to enjoy, like a kale shake," Duhigg says.

If you don't wear a tracker or you simply need a break from tech devices, simply jot down your weight every day. "It's very easy, and it has an immediate reward," Duhigg says. "You're more aware of your weight loss because you can see it as you track it."