If you knew that keeping a food journal could double your weight loss, would you take the time to do it? There have been several studies done that show that people who keep food journals are more likely to lose weight and keep it off than people who don’t. A recent study, published in the *American Journal of Preventative Medicine, *showed that people who kept a food journal for six days a week lost twice as much weight as those who only recorded their food one day a week or less.
After struggling with my weight for quite some time, I decided to work with a nutritionist to try to get rid of those last ten pounds. She created an individualized plan for me and I went to her office to check in once a week. One of the requirements was to keep a food journal. It seemed really silly at first and was actually a pain in the butt on most days. I ate mostly the same things every day, so I didn’t see the point in writing down the same things day after day. I followed the instructions, however, and kept the food journal for most of the three months. When I felt as though I had a good handle on things, I stopped using the journal to record my eating. Things were okay at first, but when my three months were up, eating became difficult for me again. I was making terrible choices and picking food off my son’s plate regularly.
Fast forward to summer, and things really got out of hand. I have gained back a lot of the weight that I lost while working with my nutritionist, and I have decided that it is time to get out the food journal once again. It is time to be honest with myself about what I am eating and get back to where I was. So, why would you take the time to keep a food journal?
Why Food Journals Work
If you’re anything like me, you probably sneak little bites of things here and there throughout the day. You might eat the extra crust from your kid’s sandwich, or you might finish off those cashews he left on the plate. Maybe you sample everything you are making for dinner,* just to make sure it tastes okay*. Believe it or not, those little bites add up. You could easily be consuming 100-300 extra calories every single day without even realizing it. When you keep a food journal, you keep yourself accountable and become aware of the food that you are putting in your mouth.
Sometimes I’ll go to take a bite of something and then I realize I’ll have to write it down. Knowing that I’ll have to write it down usually keeps me in check because one, I’m lazy about writing, and two, I want to be proud of myself at the end of the day.
Going along with what I said above, keeping a journal will keep you honest with yourself. You can no longer pretend you didn’t eat that handful of M&M’s if you have to write it down. Having to be honest with yourself will help you stay away from those bad choices. Make a promise to yourself that you are going to write down EVERYTHING.
When you are writing down every single thing you eat, you are able to go back and identify patterns in your eating that may be slowing down your weight loss. You might notice that every day around 3:00pm you eat something sweet and sabotage your hard work. Acknowledging these patterns can help to show you where you need to start making some changes.
Tips for Keeping a Food Diary
- Keep it out where you can see it.
- Choose a PORTABLE format that you will use (notebook, iPad, laptop, etc).
- Focus on portions- don’t just write “chips,” write 1 oz of chips.
- Write as you go- do not wait until the end of the day to fill it in.
- Don’t forget your drinks! Calories in drinks can add up very quickly.
- Eat at home. You can’t be sure of what your meals are made with unless you made them yourself.
- Review your journal each night to reflect upon how you did. Think about how you can improve your nutrition the following day.