Self-monitoring has no adverse effect on disordered eating in adults seeking treatment for obesity

Obes Sci Pract. 2018 Apr 19;4(3):283-288. doi: 10.1002/osp4.168. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Objectives: Although monitoring is considered a key component of effective behaviour change, the development of apps has allowed consumers to constantly evaluate their own diet, with little examination of what this might mean for eating behaviour. The aim of this study was to investigate whether self-monitoring of diet using the app MyFitnessPal or daily self-weighing increases the reported occurrence of eating disorders in adults with overweight/obesity following a weight loss programme.

Methods: Two hundred fifty adults with body mass index ≥ 27 kg/m2 received diet and exercise advice and were randomized to one of four monitoring strategies (daily self-weighing, MyFitnessPal, brief monthly consults or self-monitoring hunger) or control for 12 months. The Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire 6.0 was used to assess eating disorder symptoms and behaviours for the previous 28 d at 0 and 12 months.

Results: There were no significant differences in the global Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire score or the subscales between those in the four monitoring groups and the control at 12 months (all p ≥ 0.164), nor were there differences in binge eating, self-induced vomiting, laxative misuse or excessive exercise at 12 months (p ≥ 0.202). The overall prevalence of one or more episodes of binge eating was 53.6% at baseline and 50.6% at 12 months, with no change over time (p = 0.662).

Conclusions: There was no evidence that self-monitoring, including using diet apps like MyFitnessPal or daily self-weighing, increases the reported occurrence of eating disorder behaviours in adults with overweight/obesity who are trying to lose weight.

Keywords: Disordered eating; monitoring; obesity; weight loss.