Keeping a food journal boosts weight loss success

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Keeping a food journal boosts weight loss success

Have you ever been asked to recall what you ate yesterday?  Would you remember everything including not just food eaten at meals but every snack or bite of even part of a cookie over the past 24-hours?  Do you think being able to recall every calorie or morsel of food that passed your lips might increase your chance of weight loss success?

The answer to the last question is likely “yes.”  This is according to a new study published in the journal, Obesity, which had 142 people log their meals of what they ate. For 24-weeks, the study participants recorded daily dietary intake using a Web-based dietary analysis program. This online, behavioral weight-control intervention resulted in showing that participants who logged multiple times a day and kept it up throughout the entire six months, had the most weight-loss success of losing 10 percent or more of their body weight.

Why is keeping a food diary an important tool for weight loss?

This study reinforces what has been known for years – keeping a food diary or log is an effective tool for those looking to lose weight or even just to maintain weight. Think of a food diary as sort of a “GPS” guide helping people to where they need to be.

Keeping a food diary helps you understand your eating habits and patterns, identifying foods – good or not-so-good – you eat on a regular basis. Another study from 2008 of nearly 1,700 participants who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records.

The secret to successful food journaling is accuracy and consistency. So, what should you record? A basic food diary should include the following:

·      What you are eating. Write down the specific food and beverage consumed and how it is prepared (baked, broiled, fried, etc.). Include any sauces, condiments, dressings, or toppings.

·      How much are you eating? List the amount in household measures (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons) or in ounces. If possible, it is best to weigh and measure your food.

·      When are you eating? Noting the time that you’re eating can be very helpful in identifying potentially problematic times, such as late-night snacking.

Tips for successful food journaling

When trying to lose some weight, you want the best advice on how to be successful at it.  The same goes for keeping a food journal – here are tips to do it successfully:

·      Write down the food or beverage as soon as you consume it. Don’t wait until the end of the day because your recollection is likely to be less accurate.

·      Be as specific as you can with the food or beverage. For example, if you are drinking a latte, note the type and size.

·      Be sure to include any alcoholic beverages you consume.

·      A smartphone app like Lose It! or MyFitnessPal can support your efforts. These apps also offer information on calories and other nutrients.

What knowledge can you gain from keeping a food diary?

Keep at least a week’s worth of food journaling or longer.  Then, take a look at what you’ve recorded. What you want to discover is any trends, patterns, or habits.  For example, you might consider:

·      How healthy is my diet?

·      Am I eating vegetables and fruit every day? If so, how many servings?

·      Am I eating whole grains each day?

·      Am I eating foods or beverages with added sugar? If so, how frequently?

·      Do my moods affect my eating habits? Do I reach for unhealthy snacks when I’m tired or stressed?

·      How often do I eat on the run?

The best thing you can gain from writing down all that you eat is to assess how healthy your diet really is and what areas to improve upon. It can be a real eye-opening experience training you to pay more attention to your mood, quantity and quality of food choices you make, with the ultimate goal of  how to turn bad eating habits/choices into better-for-you eating habits/choices.