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‘Eye-opening’ Photo Food Journaling

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.

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