Funded PhD Research

Jackie Silverman

Tracking Eating Behaviors and Weight Loss Persistence

With consumers’ increasing reliance on mobile devices, the health and fitness industry has borne witness to an impressive proliferation of food-tracking apps marketed to help individuals achieve their weight-loss goals. 

For her research, Jackie looks to the failures in such apps, which have been shown to focus too heavily on calorie restriction instead of engagement. Jackie hypothesizes: 1) Participants who reflect on their eating will be more engaged with their food goals than participants who do not; 2) Participants who take photos to track their food will be more engaged with their food goals than participants who use text to record their food consumption; and 3) Photo texting and reflection will have a positive interaction effect on participants’ engagement with their food goals.

Through the distribution of randomized surveys, Jackie controls for those looking to improve their dietary habits, tests for two conditions of engaging with food to determine in which case individuals more successfully adhere to their dietary goals. In the first condition, individuals were instructed to take pictures of their meals. In the second condition, individuals were instructed to text what they ate for each meal. For both groups, Jackie used personal reflection and feedback to increase engagement with food choices by sending individuals follow-up questions about their meals.

The research has found the following: 1) individuals in the reflection condition felt more positive about and engaged more with their eating than those in the non-reflection condition; 2) while individuals adhered more to their goal in the photo condition than the text condition, they found taking photographs of their food to be more cumbersome; and 3) reflection had a stronger positive effect in the photo condition than the text condition.

Publications, Presentations & Awards