Make that list, check it twice. Active monitoring can have a real impact on weight loss.

Soon lots of us will be entering the new year with new gadgets and new regimens to help support our health and fitness goals. Smart watches, trackers, apps — there’s a host of products designed to help people live healthier. But do they work?

Well, I’m not going to endorse any specific gizmo here. But the fundamental idea they’re based on is strong: when we’re more aware of our goals, our progress, and the effort we’ve made every day, we’re more likely to achieve our priorities. This doesn’t just come from my own experience – there’s solid science behind it. For example, recent research has shown that when we keep track of our diets in a structured, consistent way, weight loss is made easier.

In a study published last year, scientists tracked the weight loss journeys of 142 participants. Every week, they joined an online session led by a dietician (this was before COVID introduced many of us to the world of teleconferencing, of course), and in between sessions they were asked to log everything they ate. Some kept detailed notes. Others spent large chunks of time on the tracker. But those who lost the most weight (over 10% of their starting number) were the people who logged most frequently. Researchers noticed the major improvements coming at a twice-daily log. But those who updated it three or four times a day found even more success.

Repetition creates habits. And new habits create sustained change. Along the way, it becomes easier. The frequent loggers spent about 23 minutes each day tracking their diets at the beginning of the study. Six months later, it was down to just 14. They had made it a seamless part of their routine.

I think this research is impactful for another reason: it shows the benefits of telemedicine. The participants had regular access to expert support from the convenience of their homes. It removed a barrier to care that prevents many people from sustaining their progress. In my book, anything that makes forming positive habits easier is an invaluable tool. Combined with effective monitoring tools, whether they’re focused on diet or exercise, telemedicine can be a powerful tool in your weight loss journey.

So as we unwrap our new gadgets and sign up for new apps, remember that they aren’t going to be a solution on their own. It’s how actively and regularly we use them that will make the difference. Of course, some people feel they’re already too glued to their devices and may be reluctant to add another to the mix. But if we can check our social media feeds every few minutes, we can spare some time to record something as important to our health as our diets.