It seems like everywhere you turn, there are fad diets and best practices for losing weight. Some essential weight loss principles seem to stay the same, but other tips seem to contradict what you’ve learned about shedding pounds throughout your life. Interestingly, there is one habit that makes it more likely that you’ll lose weight and keep it off, and it may be something you’ve avoided doing because it can get tedious after a while.
Keeping a food journal or food diary could be vital in achieving your desired weight (via WebMD). In fact, research published in the journal Obesity found that journaling your daily caloric intake positively affects your weight loss. This one change could lead to as much as double your weight loss, according to one other study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Victor Stevens, Ph.D., senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, told Nourish by WebMD, “I think the most powerful part is accountability, and the next most powerful part is increasing awareness of where those extra calories are coming from.”
When you have a written record, it can be eye-opening about what food habits you have that may sabotage your weight loss. Megrette Fletcher, MEd, RD, executive director of the Center for Mindful Eating, noted that a food diary also helped cut down on mindless munching (via WebMD).
The surprising way a food journal cuts calories
Sherrie Delinsky, Ph.D. and staff psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained to WebMD that food diaries could help you see the patterns and triggers that might cause you to overeat. Also, the simple act of writing down a food might cause you to think about whether you really want to eat it. As Dr. Delinsky notes, people may “reconsider eating something because of not wanting to write it down.” Keeping a record, even if it stays between you and your healthcare professional, might be enough to help you make healthier food choices or choose not to eat something if you’re not eating out of hunger.
Harvard Health Publishing offered some guidance on how to keep a food diary. Instead of writing everything down at the end of the day, you’ll have more success when you write down what you drink and eat as the day goes by, which helps you visually keep track of how much you’ve already consumed. Be specific about the sizes and amounts of items you record, too. In addition, write down what else you were doing at the time and note how you felt.
Apps specifically designed for journaling could help you keep track on your mobile devices, or you could start a food journal on paper. The National Heart Blood and Lung Institute offers a downloadable diary template. Once you’ve tracked your intake for a while, examine it and show it to your doctor or dietician.
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