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Could a cell phone help you lose weight?

June 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In a few weeks, many of us will cut our cell phone use while driving because of the new hands free law. But some diet researchers say you should keep your cell phone handy around meal times -- it could help you lose weight.Receptionist Linda Guy says she never met a calorie she didn't like -- or a diet she did.

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"So many ounces of this, or so many ounces of that. Just... I can't do it," said Linda.

Dietitians say most of us just don't realize how much food we really consume. Studies have shown writing down everything you eat doesn't really work either.

"People are just not good about writing down what they eat and being accurate about it," said study coordinator Sandra Coulon from the Pennington Biomedical Researcher Center in Baton Rouge, La.

To get a more accurate picture of exactly how much people like Linda are eating, researchers are testing a new system. At every meal, study participants shoot and send cell phone pictures of their plates before and after eating. Dieticians analyze the pictures and count the calories.

Linda was stunned to find out how much she was really eating -- about 750 calories at each sitting. And that was the average amount for most of the study participants.

"I was eating like two or three times more than I should have been eating," said Linda.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an average woman who is not physically active should consume about 1,800 calories a day. For a man, it's about 2,200.

Researchers say cell phones give doctors a real time look at their patient's food intake, and allow them to intervene faster if the patient goes off track.

"The doctor or the dietitian can receive the picture right away, and then give automatic feedback to the person who sent the picture so that that person will know what they need to do next time in order to reach their goals," said Coulon.

Linda says she still loves to eat, but she'll try to eat a little less from now on.

The researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Center in Louisiana say they're still studying the cell phone food reporting system and looking for ways to make it even more accurate. But they predict soon, cell phones could be an important tool for dieters trying to stay on track.

 

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