health tracking tools

Use these tools to help keep weight on track


August 25, 2016

Weight loss can be challenging. These strategies for monitoring key behaviors can help to stay on track.


Self-monitoring is an effective tool for anyone who is on a weight-loss journey.

Not only can it help raise awareness for what has been working well, but it can also be helpful for noticing unhealthy behaviors. Self-monitoring can provide the opportunity to make changes before getting too far off track.

The following list includes behaviors you can monitor yourself. It is not necessary to do every single thing on this list; do what works for you.

Food and beverage intake

A simple journal can help you keep track of the type of food and beverages you consume, the amount and the time you consume them. You can also record your emotions at meal time, which can help you detect whether or not emotional eating is an issue for you. Look for trends in what you eat and how you are feeling. Many people eat more when they are feeling sad or stressed. Your journal can also be used to note the location you are eating. Do you tend to eat more when watching television or sitting at your desk than when you are sitting at the table and eating with mindfulness?


Aim to weigh yourself once a week. Keep in mind that the number on the scale is only one measure of your health. The important thing is to be aware of a small weight gain so that you can take action to address it before it becomes unmanageable.

“When weighing yourself, it will be very important to not use this information to beat yourself up. In the long run, beating yourself up tends to undermine motivation. If beating yourself up worked to inspire permanent change, my bet is that your life and your health would be close to ‘perfect’ by now. Be realistic with yourself, but remember to be kind as well,” said Colin Armstrong, Ph.D., HSP, clinical health psychologist at Vanderbilt Dayani Center for Health and Wellness.


Physical activity is an essential part of maintaining a healthy weight long-term. You can record the type, amount and time of the activity you complete. For an added bonus, record how you feel before and after each session. This will allow you to see how activity affects your mood, hunger, weight and energy level.


Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and has been shown in numerous research studies to be connected to long-term weight loss. Sleep allows your body to recover from daily activities and prepare to be active again. Record details about your sleep, such as the amount, the times you woke up during the night and how refreshed you feel in the morning. If sleep is a constant struggle, take the records to your primary care provider to discuss treatment options.

Tools to use

Websites, cellphone apps and wearable fitness devices are also excellent self-monitoring tools. Use them to set goals and track your progress.

Here are a few options to get you started:

MyFitnessPal: a free app and website that helps you track calories consumed from food and beverages and calories burned from physical activity.
FitBit: a wearable fitness device that helps you track steps, exercise, food and beverage intake, sleep, weight and more.

Self-monitoring can make you aware of areas where you might need extra help from a support group, a friend or a family member. Even if you’ve gained weight, don’t let embarrassment keep you from reaching out. Everyone experiences setbacks, and a personal support team can help you get back on track.

Remember that even though it might be uncomfortable to self-monitor, it is far better for you to be aware so that you can take action if you start to regain weight. Look for patterns, opportunities for improvement and things you are doing well in your life-long journey to maintain a healthy weight and improve your health. When you meet a goal, acknowledge and celebrate it! Self-monitoring is a great way to track your successes.


Adapted from content written by Nancy Childers, 2015 Vanderbilt University Medical Center Dietetic Intern.