Impacts of dietary self-monitoring via MyFitnessPal to undergraduate women: A qualitative study

Body Image. 2021 Dec;39:221-226. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.08.010. Epub 2021 Sep 14.


The present study explored college women's perceptions of how dietary self-monitoring alters eating and body image-related cognitions and behaviors. The sample consisted of undergraduate women (N = 20), aged ≥ 18 (mean = 21.9 ± 6.6 years) from a cross-sectional qualitative study using semi-structured interviews conducted upon participants' completion of a randomized controlled trial testing the effects of dietary self-monitoring via the smartphone app, MyFitnessPal. Inductive content analysis was utilized to identify participants' perceptions of how engaging in dietary self-monitoring for one month impacted them. Participants' experiences dietary self-monitoring was highly variable, with some participants reporting increased negative feelings (n = 9), positive feelings (n = 7), or both (n = 2). Other notable findings included increases in weight and/or shape concerns (n = 10) and a number of changes in dietary intake and other behaviors. Participants indicated that dietary self-monitoring may be helpful when trying to lose weight but harmful if the behavior becomes obsessive or if the user has poor body image. Individual experiences with dietary self-monitoring varies widely, and while dietary self-monitoring may be a useful tool for some college women, use should be monitored to avoid possible harmful side effects.

Keywords: College; Dietary self-monitoring; Qualitative; Weight-related; Women.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Image* / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Qualitative Research