Trying to lose a few pounds? You'll lose more weight if you keep a food diary.
Several studies suggest a food diary is one of the best weapons for effective weight loss. According to 2014 research, among 123 overweight women enrolled in a year-long weight loss trial, those who lost the most weight faithfully kept food journals. These women lost about six pounds more than women who didn't record their intake.
In 2008, researchers found that dieters who tracked their food intake six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less.
Why a food diary works
A food diary makes you aware of what, how much, and why you are eating. It highlights not only the foods you are eating, but also the foods you may not be eating enough of.
Recording your food intake also helps deter overeating and prevent mindless nibbles. If you have to write it down, you'll likely think twice about going for seconds or sneaking a few bites from your child's meal.
Journaling is also a good way to uncover emotional eating patterns and identify triggers that prompt overeating.
If you want to lose weight, I strongly recommend you keep a daily food diary regardless of the diet plan you follow. It's something that I have all my clients do for at least the first four weeks of their program.
You can purchase any number of diet and fitness journals in bookstores. But a food diary doesn't need to be fancy. You can jot down your food intake on pad of paper.
Or you can use a calorie and diet tracker on your smart phone or tablet. Top rated apps include Calorie Counter, MyFitness Pal, Sparkspeople, Lose It! and MyNetDiary.
What you need to record
If you plan to design your own food journal, the following tips will help make it an effective tool for sticking to your weight loss plan.
Start with the basics
A food diary should include the time you ate, the foods consumed, and the portion sizes eaten. Include beverages, sweeteners and condiments.
Document your hunger level prior to and after eating. Did you let yourself get too hungry before eating? Did you stop eating when you felt satisfied and no longer hungry, or full?
Add in the details
If you're trying to determine if emotions trigger eating, write down how you felt before, during and after eating. Did you eat because you were bored, stressed, happy, angry, or depressed?
If you have diabetes, record your blood sugar results in your food diary. Doing so can show how your blood sugar responds to different meals and snacks. For some people it's also helpful to track grams of carbohydrate.
Update as you go
Record your food intake after each meal. Don't wait until the end of the day when you're more likely to forget a few foods. Always carry your food diary with you.
Record one day in advance
Many of my clients use a food diary not only to track their intake, but also to plan their next day's meals and snacks.
Writing down the foods and portion sizes you intend to eat tomorrow allows you to be organized and stick to your plan.
Measure, then record
Be accurate with portion sizes. The best way to know how much you are eating is to measure it. I advise my clients to measure and weigh their foods regularly at first to become familiar with serving sizes.
Portion sizes tend to creep up over time, so it's a good idea to refresh your memory every so often by measuring your foods again.
Include every bite
A food diary only works if you're honest. Write down every morsel that passes your lips. Look for "extras" that can add up and slow your rate of weight loss.
For best results, record seven days a week. For many people, weekends are the most important days to keep tabs on food intake.
Review and reflect
Look back and evaluate your food diary. Take notice of what you're doing well at and what you need to work on.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.