Trying to lose weight? Here’s why digital tools may be your best bet.

We spend the majority of our waking lives in front of screens — 11 hours a day according to the latest figures from market research group Nielsen. There’s no question that all this time in front of our TVs, computers, tablets and smart phones is contributing to sedentary lifestyles that have led to record levels of weight gain—some 75% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese.

And yet the very thing that has created this problem of epic proportions may also be what can help people slim down. A new review of 40 studies by researchers at Stanford Medicine shows that short term use of digital health technology to track weight, diet and exercise levels can result in long-term weight loss. Websites are the most common self-monitoring technology tools followed by apps, wearable devices, electronic scales, and text messaging. 

Why are these digital tools so effective at helping people lose weight? Here are three reasons:

  1. They bring awareness: Diligent tracking of what you are eating and how much you are moving keeps you focused on your weight loss goals. And the feedback provided by digital health tools can help you make changes to your daily routine and behaviours, whether it’s choosing to forgo dessert or meet a daily goal of 10,000 steps. 
  2. They simplify information: Rather than doing the math yourself and trying to figure out how many grams of calories are in your snacks and meals, digital tools do the work for you. They make calorie counting and nutrient tracking a whole lot easier since they automatically calculate these numbers for you. For example, smart scales can calculate BMI and there are apps that can determine the amount of calories in a meal when you upload a photo of what’s on your plate. 
  3. They keep you motivated: The Stanford review found increased rates of engagement among those who tracked their diet and physical activity using digital tools rather than traditional paper-based methods. It helps that these tools can bring out your competitive streak since some apps allow for networking or provide visual cues that indicate how close you may be to reaching a particular goal. 

There’s no question that self-monitoring offers accountability for eating habits and exercise. One caveat: It appears that digital health technology works best over the short term. The review found that those who self-monitored with these tools for less than 12 months had an 84% weight loss success rate, compared to only 47% success over a longer term.  

Wondering which of the hundreds of digital tools you might use to start tracking your weight loss progress? Check out these top ten weight loss apps from Healthline.