Weight Loss: What Really Works?

Weight Loss What Really Works Jawbone1 Weight Loss

We decided to dig into our rich data set to answer a simple question: What are the most effective ways to lose weight? 

By looking at the habits of the biggest ‘losers’ in the UP community, we were able to identify the behaviors and activities that are most common amongst those successfully losing weight with UP (defined as losing at least 10% of their starting body weight), compared to those who did not lose weight over the same amount of time. We found a number of factors associated with success.


As you can see from the chart above, one of the biggest differences between people who did and did not lose weight was the number of meals logged per week: people with major weight loss logged 75% more meals per week than those who did not lose weight. This supports evidence from other studies which show that keeping a food diary is one of the best long-term strategies to help people lose weight and keep that weight off [1].

La. Based on those who log food with UP, we have gained insight into which days and times people tend to eat particular foods. And with successful ‘losers’ more likely to log workouts, steps and sleep, it’s clear that being aware of your daily health habits is a huge part of making progress toward your weight loss goal. The more food you log through the app, the more Smart Coach can help you make healthier choices tailored to you.

The community effect also plays an important role here. Our biggest losers have 11% more teammates in the UP System than those who haven’t lost any weight (this correlates with our finding that members of the UP community with three or more connected teammates on the system take an average of 1,000 extra steps a day than those with no teammates). So if you’re looking to lose weight, adding teammates is a great way to get started.


When we took a look at the people who logged both their food and weight, we began to understand the eating habits that are associated with weight loss success, and those that are not. People who tracked food and lost a significant amount of weight consistently did the following:

  1. Logged 49% more healthy meals per week, according to the Food Score. These meals helped these people log 25% more fiber, 13% less fat, 13% fewer calories and 12% less sugar per meal than people who did not lose weight
  2. Drank 33% more water per week
  3. Ate breakfast 30% more times per week

Of course, anyone who has tried to lose weight has probably cut their calories or eaten less fat, but the data also reveals the importance staying hydrated, consuming high-fiber foods and eating a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is critical for kick-starting your metabolism and helps regulate your appetite throughout the day. Similarly, a high-fiber meal can help you feel full while also regulating insulin, a hormone that promotes fat storage.


  1. Keeping track of your meals can help make you aware of what you eat. People who lose weight log 75% more meals per week.
  2. Food Score matters. Major weight losers log 49% more healthy meals per week
  3. In addition to tracking meals, log your sleep, steps and weight. Tracking is just as important as the diet!
  4. It’s not just cutting calories that’s important. Increasing your intake of high-fiber food and staying hydrated also helps shed those pounds.
  5. Start your day off right with a healthy breakfast. People who lose weight log 30% more breakfasts per week.
  6. Lay off the sugar and fat!
  7. Find your friends. Social support is critical for helping you reach your weight goal and people with major weight loss have 11% more teammates.
  8. Get moving! More steps and workouts help you reach that weight goal.


And finally, our data also reveals some interesting global comparisons in international ‘success rates’ for weight loss. UP users across the globe are trying to shed those pounds. Australia is leading the pack with a nearly 60% success-rate of people who were trying to lose weight. With so much amazing food to choose from, maybe it’s understandable that Italy comes in 10th place in terms of weight-loss success.

Technical Notes: The sample of weight-trackers contains tens of thousands of UP users active between 7/15/14 and 11/30/14. These people have a weight goal less than their starting weight and at least 2 weights logged a minimum of 90 days apart. Of this group of weight-trackers, those defined as having ‘major weight loss’ are people who have lost more than 10% of their starting body weight. Food-trackers are people who have been logging at least 7 meals per week for at least 8 weeks.

[1] Hollis JF, Gullion CM, Stevens VJ, Brantley PJ, Appel LJ, Ard JD, Champagne CM , Dalcine A, Erlinger TP, Funk K, Laferriere D, Lin PH, Loria CM, Samuel-Hodge C, Vollmer WM, Svetkey LP; for the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial Research Group. Weight loss during the initial intensive intervention phase of the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2008 Aug; 35(2):118-26. PMC2515566