Several years ago, Eric Muth and colleagues at Clemson University in
South Carolina developed a way to track how much people eat based on
their wrist motion.
Muth told Reuters Health by email that self-monitoring is vital when
trying to meet health goals. “We have to keep in mind that weight
loss and weight loss maintenance are hard,” Muth said.
While the bite counter will not help people choose healthier food,
it does give feedback in real time as they are eating, Muth said.
“You can then make an informed decision of whether or not to keep
putting food in your mouth or to push the plate away and stop eating
before you have overeaten,” he said.
Muth and his team conducted two studies, the first with 94
participants and the second with 99. In both studies, the
participants were mostly women, around 19 years old, and had a body
mass index of 23, which indicates that they were at the upper limit
of normal weight.
The subjects ate meals together in a lab set up to mimic a
restaurant setting. Some participants wore bite counters, which also
gave calorie estimates as people ate, while other participants did
not wear counters and acted as a comparison group.
The first study looked at whether people changed how much they ate
when getting bite-count feedback from the wrist-worn device. In this
study, participants were further split into groups depending on the
size of the plates they were eating from.
People eating only from large plates ate around 4.5 bites more than
those with small plates. This was true even when participants
received bite count feedback.
However, people eating from both the large and small plates and
getting bite count information significantly reduced how much they
ate, taking five fewer bites than people unaware of how many bites
they were taking.
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The second study also used large and small plates and bite counting
devices, but this time participants were told to take either 12 or
People instructed to take 12 bites did take significantly fewer
bites than the higher goal group. But people who had the 12-bite
goal took larger bites, so the calorie intake of both groups was
roughly the same, the researchers reported June 23 in the Journal of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Clare Collins, a researcher and professor of Nutrition & Dietetics
at The University of Newcastle in Australia pointed out that the
study participants were mostly normal weight. The results could be
different if the study was done in an overweight group, she said.
Collins recommended another health tracking method: “Self-monitoring
of the food you eat using a diary on your phone, computer/iPad or
even paper is another way to help you become more aware of what you
eat and drink,” she said by email.
She said that when people don’t want to keep a food diary, becoming
more aware of “how” they eat by using smaller plates and monitoring
bites may be helpful.
“Weight loss and weight gain do not happen in a single bite or even
a single meal,” Muth advised. “The key is to change your behavior
slowly over time in a way that your body and mind can adjust to
While most dieters want fast change, the necessary steps can be
difficult to sustain. “Make small changes every day, continuously
self-monitoring your behavior, and long-term success will be more
achievable,” Muth said.
J Acad Nutr Diet 2016.
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