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Texting Food Diaries Helps Kids Stick With Diets
Date:11/20/2008

Study found hi-tech method improved compliance more than paper and pencil

THURSDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Experts hope that letting kids have their fingers do the texting will increase compliance with the food diaries that are such a critical part of successful dieting.

As a first proof that such a method might work, a new University of North Carolina study shows that kids aged 5 to 13 are almost twice as likely to text daily records of their food intake, exercise and screen time as those using the old-fashioned kinds of diaries. The research was published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

Previous studies have shown that dieters who keep these types of records are more likely to lose weight and to keep it off, according to study author Jennifer Shapiro, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry.

"What we're looking for is a fun way for people, particularly children," to keep these diaries, Shapiro said. "If people enjoy doing it, they're more likely to do it and more likely to lose weight."

The eight-week study following 31 families with children aged 5 to 13 showed that those kids who used text messaging were almost twice as likely to comply with the program than kids who used paper and pencil.

The popularity of this approach was demonstrated by the fact 100 percent of the participating children and parents initially said they hoped they would be selected for the text-messaging group.

In the study, an immediate text message responded to the children's report on how well they met their goals. Children who used the paper-and-pencil diaries had to wait a week to report to their nutritionist for a response to their progress.

"Feedback is very important," Shapiro explained. "It makes them feel like there is someone on the other line paying attention, and they need to be more accountable."

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