If there was one simple thing you could do that would almost guarantee you better weight loss results, would you do it? If the answer is yes, then grab a pen and a notebook because that one thing does exist and it is the simple act of keeping a food journal. Not just one, but several studies have shown that keeping a food journal helps people to lose more weight. One study in particular that was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that people who kept a food diary six days per week lost almost twice as much weight as those who did not!
Keeping a food diary is an excellent tactic for weight loss as it increases two key things: your awareness and accountability for the foods you consume. If you’re diligent and write down everything you eat or drink it can help you see where some of your “hidden calories” may be lurking. It can also reveal patterns such as times of day that you veer off track. And, sometimes just knowing you’ll have to record that late night bowl of ice cream is enough of a deterrent to stop you from having it.
Here are some tips on how to make food journaling work for you.
- Choose a medium that is convenient and easy for you. Your food diary can be as simple as a notebook you use to hand write all of your entries or a stack of index cards you use to write your entries on. Or, you can keep a journal on your computer, your tablet or download an app like MyFitnessPal to your mobile device. Whatever method you choose, it needs to be easy to access all day long.
- Make it detailed. Each journal entry should contain these elements: the date, the meal, the time you ate it, the food and the quantity you ate. Be sure to break things down into their individual elements. For example instead of just journaling a “turkey sandwich,” your entry should read something like this: two slices of whole grain bread, three slices of deli turkey meat, one slice of American cheese, one tablespoon of mayonnaise.
- Accuracy is important. When recording your quantities be sure to be accurate about your portion sizes. The more precise you are easier it will be to spot trouble areas or places where you need to scale back – or even up!
- Record as you go. Don’t wait til the end of the day and rely on your memory to recall everything you consumed. Sometimes your memory may be more forgiving. Instead, journal as you eat throughout the day. This will also help to ensure your journal is as accurate as possible. Remember to recordeverything, not just your main meals. Keep track of all your snacks and even little nibbles (think of the candy bowl at work) throughout the day.
- Be honest. Remember, your food journal is only as useful as it is accurate. It shouldn’t be a work of fiction or a journal of what you think you should be eating on a daily basis. Keep it real and you’ll get much more out of the food journaling process – even if some of it hard to see or own up to.
- If you want to up the accountability factor, consider sharing your journal with someone else. This could be a spouse, a friend or a trainer. Sure, it can be intimidating to share very personal information like this but sometimes a fresh set of eyes or an objective view can help you spot patterns you might not recognize on your own.