In Weight Loss, Accountability Is Essential

For the first four months of 2008, I stepped out of the shower every morning and onto a flashy digital scale. This act, along with a food journal and a nutrition class, helped me lose nearly 25 pounds and beat my boss in a weight-loss contest. My blood sugar, which I checked regularly, was under tighter control, and I dropped at least one medication from my diabetes regimen.

The class ended, the batteries died on the scale, and the journal—who knows? Maybe the new hypoallergenic dog ate it. Can you guess what happened next?

OK, I didn’t gain all the weight back—just most of it. After flirting with 178 pounds, I’m now hovering around 190, a fact I discovered when I stepped on the scale at a friend’s house.

Most people who lose weight on a diet gain it back. They return to old habits. I had not intended to diet. I wanted to change my lifestyle. The slimmer me was an expression of those lifestyle changes. But once the accountability disappeared, so did the lifestyle changes. (I have chocolate residue from a mini Twix bar on my keyboard as I type this.)

Of course, there’s science behind this link between weight-loss success and accountability. A study in the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine confirms what weight-loss experts have long suspected: Accountability works. Study participants who kept food journals were twice as successful as those who did not.

There’s no magic here. Being confronted with the evidence of overeating—on the pages of a journal or through the LED screen on a scale—motivated me the same way support groups motivate others.

My weight-loss doctor offered to keep seeing me after my nutrition class ended. His service included weekly weigh-ins and biweekly sessions, the kind of accountability my scale, journal, and nutrition class offered.

Because I did not take him up on the offer, and because I let the journal lapse and the scale go dark, the only accountability I have left is the occasional nagging family member and my size 34 pants, which are struggling under the weight of my new muffin top.

As a diabetic, I have good reasons to lose weight and keep it off. Now I just need new batteries for my scale, a food journal, and a moment to call my weight-loss doctor. Just help me make sure I do it!


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