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Extension Agent: SuperTracker great aid for weight loss

By By Erika Bochat
Jan. 8, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 7, 2013 at 7:08 p.m.


We've all set them and now we are a little over a week into the New Year. How are you doing so far? Need a little help already?

And what, you may ask, am I talking about?

Your 2013 resolutions, of course. Sometimes, we need a little help in the way of pointing us to some useful tools that will help us with those well-intentioned goals.

There is a great, free computer program out there that can help us keep on track. It is called SuperTracker and is available for our use. It is found on the United States Department of Agriculture's website.

Studies have shown that self-monitoring allows people to become more aware of their current habits, poor or good alike (and how they may have changed over time).

Providing people with tools to identify areas for improvement is essential to curtail the obesity epidemic that is affecting the nation.

Additionally, research shows self-monitoring of diet, physical activity and weight was significantly associated with weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.

The computer program SuperTracker is a web-based, interactive and personalized tool that allows individuals to record their meals (energy calories taken in) and activities (energy calories expended). These food and physical activity trackers immediately provide feedback, comparing your food entries to recommended food group intakes, as well as recommended activity levels.

People can also set up goals for themselves, with the option to have a virtual coach provide tips and encouragement. Many other features are available, such as nutrient reports that summarizes how well someone is meeting the recommended levels of nutrients in their diet.

SuperTracker is a great resource for those interested in a healthier diet and a healthier lifestyle. The features available can help with diet and physical activity planning, assessment and analysis.

What this tool really does is promote the self-efficacy of individuals so they are better able to make healthier choices in their lives.

Self-efficacy is the perceived ability of an individual to complete tasks and meet goals. One study showed that increasing the self-efficacy of young adults led to greater improvements in eating behavior.

Moreover, SuperTracker provides an area to set goals. Setting a few attainable goals can motivate people to make healthy changes and create a sense of accomplishment when goals are met. Additionally, SuperTracker allows people to sign up for tips and support from a virtual coach.

If someone wants to develop better eating behaviors, lose weight or exercise more, SuperTracker is an Internet-based tool that can empower him or her to better meet his or her goals.

How do I use SuperTracker?

SuperTracker is free to anyone. Simply, create an account by going to choosemyplate.gov and clicking the link to SuperTracker or by going directly to supertracker.usda.gov. An account allows individuals to save their information so that they can keep track of it over time. Meals and physical activity can be recorded with the respected trackers, which are accessed from the homepage or the menu bar. Set goals in the special features area, which is also where journal entries can be recorded. There are many features to be found by exploring the site.

And, if you've made that resolution to increase your physical activity but just don't know where or how to get started, join us from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Victoria Mall for the kick-off of Walk Across Texas event. Walk Across Texas is an eight-week walking program for teams of eight people or individuals. Teams have a friendly competition to see who can log the most miles walking, jogging or biking. You can even dance, do aerobics or ride a stationary bike. Dust off your walking shoes and come out to sign up for the event Saturday at the Victoria Mall and find out how to get fit, start a healthy habit, spend time with a friend, co-workers or family members, and most of all, have fun.

This event compliments the "Do Well Be Well with Diabetes" self-care and nutrition series offered by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. For more information and how to register for this free workshop series that runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, Jan. 10, 17, and 24 at the Victoria County Health Department's Classroom A&B, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Victoria County Office at 361-575-4581. Deadline to reserve your place is 5 p.m. Wednesday.

For more help and information on healthy eating, increasing your physical activity or diabetes educational classes in Victoria County, contact the County Extension Office at 361-575-4581 or email Erika.bochat@ag.tamu.edu.

Sources: Burke LE, Wang J, and Sevick MA. Self-Monitoring in Weight Loss: A Systematic Review of the Literature. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011;111:92-102; Post RC, Herrup M, and Chang S. Getting Plates in Shape Using SuperTracker. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:354-358; Post RC, Maniscalco S, Herrup M, and Chang S. What's New on MyPlate? A New Message, Redesigned WebSite and SuperTracker Debut. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112:18-22; Roach JB, Yadrick MK, Johnson JT, Boudreaux LJ, Forsythe WA, and Billon W. Using self-efficacy to predict weight loss among young adults. J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:1357-1359; Williamson DA, Martin CK, and Stewart TM. Behavioral Strategies for Controlling Obesity. Overweight and the Metabolic Syndrome. 2006;26:219-232.

Erika Bochat is a Victoria County extension agent-family and consumer sciences.

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