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.
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