The experience and role of self-monitoring in self-directed weight loss attempts may be distinctly different from that within formal interventions, and has yet to be fully explored. We systematically reviewed qualitative studies to examine experiences of self-monitoring as an aid to self-directed weight loss. Thematic synthesis was used to construct descriptive and analytical themes from the available data. In all, 22 studies (681 participants) were included, in which the uses of self-monitoring ranged from an aid to increase adherence to a tool for facilitating analysis. Self-monitoring also influenced and was influenced by self-perception and emotions. Feelings of shame were linked with abandonment of efforts. Findings highlight the centrality of interpretation of self-monitored data, the implications this interpretation has on sense of self, and the impact of broader discourses. Explicitly framing self-monitoring as a positive tool with which to aid analysis may encourage helpful use of this technique.
Keywords: qualitative; self-management; self-monitoring; systematic review; weight loss; worldwide.