Weight loss can be difficult for some people. After cutting back on calories for a few weeks and not making any progress, they throw up their hands in frustration and head to the drugstore for the latest weight loss pill that’s all the rage. This is not a path to healthy weight control. There could be a simpler and safer way to lose those excess pounds – by keeping a food diary.
Keep a Food Diary for Weight Loss?
A study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that people who kept a regular food journal six days a week lost twice as much weight over a six month period as those who kept a food diary only once a week or less.
How does keeping a food diary help with weight loss? Many people are unaware of how many calories they eat on a regular basis. Those trips to the refrigerator for a quick snack, samples at the grocery store, and little tastes of what’s being cooked for dinner all add up to extra calories – and extra pounds.
If You Keep a Food Journal, How Does It Help?
Keeping a food diary creates awareness and accountability. If you know you have to write it down, you’ll think twice about munching on that extra cookie – and you’ll be more aware of those unplanned trips to the refrigerator and midnight snacks.
When you keep a food journal, it also encourages mindful eating – where you become more aware of what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. Mindless snacking and emotional eating is one of the biggest causes of weight gain – and keeping a food diary helps to identify these unhealthy eating patterns.
Some people are unpleasantly surprised when they see how many calories they’ve been consuming. The majority of people underestimate how many calories they eat and drink each day and seeing it on paper may be just the motivation needed to change unhealthy eating habits.
How to Keep a Food Diary
To keep a food diary that’s accurate, it’s important to write down five basic pieces of information – the food that’s eaten, the calorie content of the food, the portion size, the time, and the motivation for eating it. The last piece of information helps to identify whether you’re eating when you’re really hungry – or when you’re bored or feeling stressed.
It’s important to write down everything you eat when you keep a food journal – even if it’s only a sample at the grocery store. Be sure to write down any beverages with the exception of water.
The real benefit of keeping a food diary comes from reviewing the entries. Once you have a week’s worth of data, look through your records and try to identify patterns that suggest bad eating habits – such as eating when you’re stressed or bored and eating the wrong kinds of foods. This information will also be helpful if you decide to use the services of a nutritionist to help establish healthier eating patterns.
The Bottom Line?
Keep a food diary if you’re trying to lose weight or change unhealthy eating habits. It’s an often overlooked way to win the weight loss battle – without resorting to unhealthy weight loss pills and supplements.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2008; vol 35.
Contributing Arthur: Kristie Leong,M.D