Researchers from the University of Auckland, the University of Sydney, and a group of athletes affiliated with the High Performance Sport New Zealand organization tested how to best educate and promote dietary and behavioral changes using MealLogger as a coaching tool and platform.
At Sarasota Memorial Health Care System in Sarasota, Fla., five patients opted for a lifestyle intervention program as an alternative to gastric-bypass surgery. During the first year-long phase of the program, participants enrolled in an intensive lifestyle modification program that included access to a wellness coach, chronic disease manager and personal trainer. After completing their first year, qualifying participants were transitioned to a six-month program and supported remotely through the use of the MealLogger photo food-journaling app.
Dr. Voelker selected MealLogger for its logical workflow and the convenience and simplicity of food journaling using photos. However, he and his collaborators recognized that the benefits of using MealLogger went far beyond those gained with an ordinary written food journal.
Extension Program Coordinator Allison Lauderdale, RN, described using MealLogger as “eye-opening in the best way possible.” For example, being able to see actual portion sizes was far more informative than a written description, and the photos enabled dietitians to look at the ratios of the various components of each meal.
Both the participants and the dietitians working with them appreciated the immediacy of interaction that the app allowed. This real-time interaction really paid off. From the time participants began using MealLogger to a few months afterward, Lauderdale noted a real evolution in participants’ habits. “The composition of the meals—the amounts of grains, proteins, and fruits and vegetables—improved.”
Dr. Voelker reported that they could see improvement over time and more consistent meal intervals. Though the program measured only weight and BMI, Dr. Voelker said, it would be possible to build in more metrics in the future.
There were weeks when it was challenging for participants to stay motivated and on track, but Lauderdale concluded that “they learned through the program that the expectation was not perfection but progress and behavior change.”
To build on the program’s success using the app, Sarasota Memorial is interested in testing some of MealLogger’s peer support and gamification features.
With the new version of the MealLogger app (version 4.6 for Android and iOS, released in early April), there are new ways to consolidate comments for easier review. Your clients now can view and summarize all their pro comments, and they also can tap to view a full history of pro interaction. Private clients can view all the guidance they’ve received in a single stream. Plus, some more subtle, yet significant, functionality tweaks make it easier to enter comments in social groups.
Version 4.6 has also added more ways to connect to a coach. We’ve made it possible for our users to invite professionals new to MealLogger and get connected in one step. Read more about in our help article about “How to Invite a Coach.”
It’s probably an expression you’ve encountered at least once in your practice: the eye roll. A familiar reaction to the idea of keeping a written food diary, the eye roll conveys a whole host of feelings from anxiety to frustration to lack of faith in one’s ability to follow through with the request. But MealLogger helps you turn the eye roll into an “Oh, I can do that!” This has been the experience of Sharon Stewart, RD.
When counseling clients at Facebook, Sharon would work with people during their initial consultation to establish their goals and set out a game plan. Then she would ask them to track their meals with MealLogger. Clients with previous experience with some form of food diary would often roll their eyes at the idea of logging everything they ate, counting calories, tracking macros or the like. But when Sharon explained that they only needed to photograph their meals (and sync them with their account so Sharon could view them on her end), their reactions became much more positive.
Most people – clients and dieticians alike – have busy days. So finding ways to work together more efficiently to achieve healthy eating goals is a benefit for everyone. Logging meals as photographs is fast and easy for clients, but it’s also quick for Sharon to check how clients are doing. She notes that she can look at the colors of the meals in the weekly view in MealLogger and get a quick overview of a client’s progress and give them a nudge, if they are getting off track.
Using MealLogger is far more empowering than your average food diary, too. Once Sharon explains to clients how they should be eating, using an appropriate plate model as a reference, she asks her clients, “What would your meal makeover be?” Then they have the power to analyze their own meals and suggest concrete changes. Sharon explains that MealLogger allows clients to really SEE what they need to change.
In fact, just the act of logging their meals helps motivate clients to focus on their intended changes. Many of Sharon’s clients have said, “It’s really affected my thinking about food. I’m much more intentional about what I eat because I take a photo first.” As Sharon encourages her clients to pay attention to how they are feeling when they eat a meal, clients often like to add notes in MealLogger to detail their hunger cues, pace of eating and fullness. Then they can look for their own triggers and patterns and improve their mindful eating.
For Sharon, access to the photos of clients’ meals means she can review their latest entries before each follow-up visit so she can give them specific feedback. Because the photos themselves often serve as visual cues to remind the client of a situation or story behind a particular meal, it helps them to be able to discuss the factors that influenced the meal choices they made.
In fact, with their MealLogger experience, people are able to recognize on their own when they are not eating as mindfully as they should. Even after their active work with Sharon ended, several clients returned to using MealLogger for support to get back on track again.
With the help of Sharon and MealLogger, clients gained the tools they needed to manage their healthful eating themselves. That means the next time they encounter dietary challenges, they’ll be empowered to say once again, “Oh, I can do that!”
At the Uppsala Health Summit in Uppsala, Sweden, Michael Quarshie from MealLogger and public health researcher Dr. Pilvikki Absetz helped in hosting a workshop called “Empowering Healthy Behaviors.” The workshop covered strategies and partnerships to help people change or maintain healthy behaviors and looked at how technology can aid behavior change.
Most often, when trying to change behavior, we focus on why the change needs to be made rather than on how to do it. While knowing the why is important, research evidence clearly shows it is not enough to create lasting change. Helping people figure out how to change is perhaps even more important.
Counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practice that, despite being a common way to track eating, is not as beneficial as we might think – for professionals or for patients. There is value in having patients record the foods they eat, to understand what they are consuming and offer accountability, and it is critical that patients understand relative calories (like, high for brownies versus low for broccoli), but it’s not necessary that they record every single calorie they intake.
Most professionals know the drawbacks of written food logs, but let’s highlight the biggest ones here: Continue reading
Researchers from the University of Helsinki presented their findings of a four-week feasibility study at the Connected Health Symposium in Boston in October 2016. The results showed that virtual peer support groups with overweight, diabetic men and women moderated by a nutrition professional using MealLogger can effectively promote healthy eating. Continue reading