May 9, 2023

The Most Important Tool For Long-Term Weight Control

A person who wishes to change himself should demand an account of himself with regard to the particular point which he has resolved to watch in order to correct himself and improve.  Let him go over the single hours or periods from the time he arose to the hour and moment of the present examination and make a mark for each time he has fallen into the particular sin or defect.  The second day should be compared with the first, that is, the two examinations of the present day with the two of the preceding day.  Let him observe if there is an improvement from one day to another.  Let him compare one week with another and observe whether he has improved during the present week as compared to the preceding.
– St. Ignatius Loyola, 1500

St. Ignatius Loyola’s thoughts on behavioral change date from the middle ages, but are very scientifically accurate today.  Researchers have demonstrated the importance of self-monitoring to improve performance across a wide range of disciplines.

Monitoring is used extensively in sports.  Professional football players want to know how fast they run the 40-yard dash.  Pitchers want know how fast they are pitching.  Feedback is the key ingredient for improved performance.  In one famous study, Olympic-level figure skaters were left to train on their own.  They were recorded attempting 60 elements (jumps, spins) in an hour of training.  Then, a whiteboard was brought out onto the ice so their coach could tally the number of jumps and spins in real time.  The result:  the number of elements attempted rose from 60 to 100.  Then the whiteboard was removed, and the number declined to 60.  Then the coach brought the whiteboard out again.  The result:  suddenly the figure skaters were attempting 100 elements again.

At Wellspring, campers learn that weight control is an athletic challenge.  And self-monitoring is particularly applicable to this particular athletic challenge.

Many scientific studies have demonstrated the importance of self-monitoring for successful long-term weight control.  Simply put, weight controllers who self-monitor very consistently lose much more weight and keep if off much better than those who don’t self-monitor consistently.  Dr. Tom Wadden of the University of Pennsylvania describes self-monitoring as the “cornerstone” of behavioral treatment for weight problems.

What is Self-Monitoring?

At Wellspring, campers are trained to self-monitor within hours after arriving on campus.  Along with their pedometer, they are handed two other tools that will prove instrumental for evolution into long-term weight controllers.

The first item is a self-monitoring journal.  Pages from the Wellspring journal are reproduced below.  We encourage you to take this book to a local copy shop, reproduce these pages, and have them bound into a nice little book that we call self-monitoring journals, or SMJ’s for short.

Here is what it looks like:

Here’s how it works at Wellspring:

At the beginning of each day, circle the day of the week and write down the date.

At breakfast, write down everything you eat.  This includes:

  • What you’re eating
  • Portion size (# of ounces or cups)
  • Calories
  • Fat grams

Repeat at lunch, dinner and for any snack.

At least once during the day, try to write down something – anything – that occurs to you in the Think & Ink section.

At the end of the day:

  • Record your steps where it says STEPS (top left).
  • Total your calories and fat grams for the day.
  • Review how active you were – on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being as active as you possibly could be, was today a 20 or an 80?
  • Write down a Link.

You may be asking:  how will I know how many calories or fat grams are in a particular food?  This is where the second item comes in handy.  Every incoming Wellspring camper also receives a Calorie King calorie counter.  The Calorie King is the best guide available in our view.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a food that’s not listed, including when you’re out for lunch or dinner:  Calorie King lists popular menu items for most restaurant chains.

When you first lay your hands on a Calorie King, take a few minutes to look through it to see how it’s organized.  It will only take a few minutes.  Then you’ll be zipping through it in no time.

The Calorie King is available in most bookstores, as well as online at