Did you know that simply keeping an accurate food journal can help you lose weight? Some experts believe that this one choice might in itself double your weight loss.
A study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine involved 1685 obese adults. They kept food diaries for six months. The most powerful predictor of who lost the most weight was whether they kept food records at least six days per week. In other words, those who kept the most complete food diaries lost the most weight.
“Those who kept food records six days a week – jotting down everything they ate and drank on those days – lost about twice as much weight as those who kept food records one day a week or less”
– Victor Stevens, PhD
In last weeks article, we told you how to keep a food diary, and even gave you a downloadable food diary form to use. Now, lets look at the ways that keeping that record can be used to your best advantage.
Spotting The Opportunities
The increased awareness that comes from keeping a food diary accurate can really help you pinpoint opportunities to limit hunger and reduce calories, and it makes sense that if you can do those two things, weight loss will follow.
- Were my meals spaced at least four hours apart?
- Did I eat fiber with every meal?
- Did I have good fat with every meal?
- Did I drink sufficient water a half hour after eating?
- How were my portion sizes?
- Were vegetables the largest portion on my plate?
- Did I avoid hidden sugars (sauces, condiments)?
- Did I stop eating when I was no longer hungry?
- How did I trade off poor choices for better ones?
- Did I eat when I wasn’t hungry? What triggered it?
- What did you pass on today that was unhealthy?
- What did you do that was on target for losing weight?
- Did you succeed in being active today?
Tips for Keeping a Food Journal
- Record as you go. Never trust to memory to try to backfill your food journal.
- Record it all. In particular, don’t forget alcohol and other liquid calories, which are often overlooked. That one alcoholic drink a day could add up to over 15 pounds per year.
- Keep track of how you feel.
- Note portion size.
- Don’t skip days. Even if you’re going to a special event or plan to knowingly “break the rules”, keep a record.
- Prep food at home. Trying to find healthy food in reasonable portions out in the world isn’t going to be easy, so prepare meals and snacks to take with you, to set yourself up for success. Keep a few healthy meal bars in the car for emergencies.
- Work with your doctor. A food journal can help you spot issues that your doctor can address. For example, if you become suddenly exhausted after eating, your doctor will probably want to check your blood sugar.
- Trust the process.
What gets measured can be modified. As you keep your food journal, you’ll notice opportunities to improve your eating habits via food substitution, changing your daily patterns, avoiding eating triggers, planning ahead, etc. Keeping a food diary will help you tailor a healthy lifestyle that works for your life.
Keeping a food journal is a process that can invite self sabotage. Many people encounter feelings of hopelessness, shame, guilt and frustration during the process. Taking time to write in a food diary multiple times daily can feel inconvenient.
It’s important to focus on the benefits, choose not to beat yourself up when you’re imperfect, and remember that this is a choice you’ve made for your own good health. Over time, a food journal is a powerful tool to help you find the path to better health.