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The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management, a program of the Institute for Lifelong Weight Management – teaching you the psychological and emotional skills you need to keep the weight off forever!


Over two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin used detailed grids to measure his progress towards the 13 goals he’d created for himself. He believed that this increased his self-understanding and enhanced his efforts to change his behavior.

Today, many accomplished people use the same technique in their efforts to achieve more and perform better. Research confirms that recording aspects of our behavior and our progress towards our goals – a process known as self-monitoring – increases our success in making a variety of life changes. When combined with goal setting and other behavior modification techniques, self-monitoring is a simple but powerful tool.

What does Self-Monitoring involve?

Self-monitoring involves keeping a record of what we consume (foods, beverages), as well as the kinds and amounts of exercise that we are doing, and our weight. Some people also record their moods or other non-hunger related eating triggers. It’s also helpful to record your level of hunger (on a scale of 1-10) each time you eat.

There are many tools available for self-monitoring: all the way from pen and paper to sophisticated online tools or smartphone apps – MyFitnessPal is a great tool, as is the tracker available at

There are many free printable food diary templates available online. I like this one: The blank column on the right, or the space at the bottom, can be used to record mood and other eating triggers. 

Why Self-Monitoring works

Self-monitoring helps us avoid the “all-or-nothing” thinking that can often lead to the “snowball effect” – that is, we suffer a minor setback or relapse, we consider ourselves to have “failed”, and we allow that minor lapse to “snowball” into a major relapse or even a total abandonment of our goals or intentions. Reviewing our food diaries helps us put temporary lapses in context – it allows us to see the bigger picture.

Self-monitoring tends to counteract our natural tendency to overlook progress – for example, when people who are trying to lose weight (or to maintain their weight loss) focus on the times they went “off track” rather than on the many times they stayed “on plan”.

Self-monitoring also allows us to make “course corrections”, by giving us solid data to refer to. For example, if we record our food intake and our time spent exercising, we may learn that we are suffering from “weekend snowballs” – staying on track during the week, but allowing minor slips to snowball into periods of inactivity and overeating on weekends. Armed with this knowledge, we can then come up with strategies for preventing weekend weight gain. If we gain weight and we’re not sure why, examining our records can answer important questions and tell us what we need to do to get back on track.

Self-monitoring allows us a realistic view of what we’re actually eating. This is important because most people tend to underestimate their portion sizes. So many of us eat unconsciously, at least at times, and self-monitoring increases our awareness of how much, how often, and exactly what we eat.

Self-monitoring can help us learn about non-hunger-related factors that are triggering our eating. If you’re not sure how much you can eat and still maintain your weight loss, your food records will help you figure it out.

How has self-monitoring helped you maintain your weight loss? Share your experience with other readers by commenting on this post.

 With your continued health in mind,

Doreen Lerner, Ph.D.

Director, The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management

Creator, The Full Mind Weigh™ to Lifelong Weight Management

The Institute for Lifelong Weight Management provides education and training. The Full Mind Weigh™ is strictly an educational program and is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation or treatment. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, please consult with a qualified mental health professional who is trained to evaluate and treat eating disorders.